Ben Affleck and George Clooney’s team for a memorable coming-of-age story All About Family – Deadline


As a director, George Clooney’s filmography has crossed different genres (most recently from the icy edges of earth to space in the large-scale epic The midnight sky). But I don’t think he ever touched our hearts right in the same way his last one did, The tender bar, Is.

The only special effect used in this exceptional and universally recognizable story is simply family. This is what they commercially call a “feel good” movie, and boy, do we need it now. It’s no surprise that all of this came from real life, especially a 2005 coming-of-age memoir written by and about Pulitizer Prize-winning author JR Moehringer and his life shaped by his childhood in Manhasset. , Long Island, especially the local bar, Dickens, run by his uncle Charlie. This is really where his education and his boy-to-young man lessons were shaped, and it is in this hometown that he has found his answer to true happiness forever.

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Clooney fancifully describes it all as a bit of The Wizard of Oz, the comparison being the realization that the mythical key to life that we seek is there at home all the time. With an educated and loving screenplay adaptation by William Monahan (Oscar winner for The missing), it could also be called a true story of father (s) and son, the story of JR, a young boy whose biological father abandoned his family early on, leaving him to find that much needed relationship with his grandfather, the men who daily inhabited Dickens, and most notably, Uncle Charlie, here portrayed beautifully and knowingly by Ben Affleck in his best on-screen performance, a role he was born to play as a self-taught man, book lover and possessor of innate knowledge and wisdom that he is. determined to pass on to his nephew.

Themes of classroom, family and self-discovery permeate The tender bar, which I think represents Clooney’s most accomplished, albeit modest, work behind the camera since his multiple Oscar nomination Good night and good luck.

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Obviously, the center of the story is JR, and the role is shared by irresistible newcomer Daniel Ranieri (discovered in the sheer Hollywood way of a viral pandemic rant that landed him a guest spot with Jimmy Kimmel) as a nine-year-old version, and later by a formidable Tye Sheridan as an older teenager who, against all odds, is accepted by Yale and experiences a whole new world on a path that will ultimately turn him into the writer of his dreams.

Along with his father (Max Martini), a radio personality known as The Voice, basically someone whose family has never spoken of, JR searches for the man he thought he was, but unfortunately finds a person. with a dark side who was unable to give his son the love and advice he needed, but only spent afternoons at his uncle’s bar, or in the family home owned by Grandpa (Christopher Lloyd in a small but rich tour), where he also lives with his supportive mother Dorothy (a luminous Lily Rabe) whose only dream is seemingly impossible of seeing her son enter an Ivy League school. It’s just the stuff of life as he rolls around town with Charlie in his uncle’s dream convertible, or soaks up the knowledge of this unlikely clientele. tender bar.

The second half of the film focuses on JR emerging into a whole different class as a student at Yale, getting 411 from his roommates Wisley (Rhenzy Feliz) and Jimmy (Ivan Leung), and sheer frustration from a classmate Sidney (promising newcomer Briana Middleton) who comes from a wealthy Connecticut family but sends confusing signals about their intermittent romantic relationship. His eventual internship at the New York Times is also well etched here, as we see the seeds of the writer JR is emerging.

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It’s a pure human-centric story, and therefore not the one you see coming from the studios these days. But that’s the kind of movie Hollywood used to shoot on a regular basis, when they thought audiences were interested in seeing the lives of real people like them unfold in movie theaters.

It’s happy that Amazon is giving it a theatrical release in December ahead of its streaming premiere in January, so the lucky ones among us can have the collective experience of sharing it together. This is the kind of movie that I remember seeing as a kid, and, in fact, it reminded me of a movie that humanist director Frank Capra could have made, something like A hole in the head centered on the relationship between a fiery boy and his hapless father (Frank Sinatra) and his extended family at a Miami hotel.

I’m sure Capra would always gravitate towards stories like The tender bar, and it’s good that Clooney did too. It’s a movie that draws laughs and tears, a heartwarming one with a simple premise: family is everything. The only downside is that due to the language and some tasteful sex scenes, no doubt – as well as some stupid MPA guidelines – it’s rated “R” but I urge families to see it together. Look, it’s not Paw Patrol, but children of the age of the two actors who play JR can handle it.

Affleck has the primary billing, but it’s really a big supporting role in Ranieri and Sheridan’s combined turn as JR. The way back, that he’s capable of far more than many of his more prestigious film roles that haven’t shown his range.

As a bar owner with a keen intelligence, Affleck goes through select dialogue and monologues to deliver an unforgettable portrayal of the uncle you desire. you had. Max Casella, Michael Braun and Matthew Delamer are wonderful because the bar patrons giving life advice to JR Martini are imposing as an unpleasant father, and a special tribute to the inimitable Sondra James, who passed away last month. She manages to steal her all too rare moments as a grandmother with the talent she has always shown during a long and successful acting career. Clooney’s choice of songs on the soundtrack is also worth highlighting.

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It’s encouraging to see a growing number of films this season that focus on family in a way that gives us real live breathing people to relate to on screen, good films like Coda, Ken Branagh’s Belfast, and now The tender bar.

It might be the effect of being so disconnected from our own shared humanity by the pandemic, but it’s a welcome trend and hopefully it translates into more movies like them. Clooney has produced with Grant Heslov and Ted Hope.

Amazon will publish The tender bar in theaters in New York and LA on December 17, and nationwide on December 22, then worldwide on Amazon Prime Video on January 7. It followed a special screening in Los Angeles last Sunday with its official world premiere tonight at the London Film Festival.


Gerald R. Schneider

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