There will probably never be a lower budget movie that both Ben Affleck stars in and George Clooney directs than the new film “The Tender Bar”. This story is very simple, and very often the simpler the story, the better the movie. Tender Bar stars a young newcomer Daniel Ranieri, who plays the young version of the main character J.R, played by Tye Sheridan. Daniel is one of those very rare young actors who just can walk in and be a very strong presence and never appears to be acting. He was found by accident by George Clooney supposedly in a funny Youtube video where he was cursing constantly – leading to an appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel show, and a starring role in this movie. An amazing and very unlikely path to fame.
The simple story here is about a young J.R., who loves to read and one day just wants to be a writer. His family is very poor, and he and his mother have to move back in with her father played by Christopher Lloyd. Ben Affleck plays his uncle, who owns a local bar and takes the place of his father – an abusive alcoholic who proves a blessing that he does not live or stay in contact with this gifted and likeable young boy.
The central and best part of this movie is the story when J.R. goes to Yale and meets a very attractive young woman named Sydney in one of his classes; who then proceeds to torture him for years, leading him on, time after time. From one of J.R. friend’s account, “She dumped you 9 times”. The irony is, J.R. being so in love and never giving up, is the reason for Sydney’s not respecting him leading to his endless torture. At times it was almost as if she enjoyed torturing this young man, who was so desperate to impress her and break out of his average life to become someone she could respect. J.R.’s life is never easy but he eventually gets a job at the NY Times that goes both very well, and then not so great. Proving what we all know – what we imagine what our life should be – is very often not how things turn out. I did think that the ending of this film was too abrupt, almost as if they ran out of ideas, and I thought of one great revenge ending for J.R. that was in my head, but once again – not how real life happens. This film is about real life, and that is the most important point.
Once again I am stunned by the stupid and low ratings on Rotten Tomatoes of only 49% – once again the critics missed the point, missed the boat, and are completely wrong about this very good movie. I rate The Tender Bar a solid 85% and highly recommend it.