The Tender Bar, 2021, movie review

“The Tender Bar”: a young man comes of age with the help of an uncle as substitute father, and declares himself a “writer”

Long Island beach community 2013, after Hurricane Sandy

J.R. Moehringer got to produce his own memoir, “The Tender Bar”, directed by George Clooney and screenwritten by William Monahan, for Amazon Studios.

The film is bifurcated, with the first part showing his youth at 9 years (Daniel Ranieri) on Long Island in 1973, learning from Mom (Lily Rabe) and grandpa (Chrsitopher Lloyd) that dad had deserted them when he was a baby – that dad had “never learned to take care of anybody” and grandpa struggled to do so.  Fathering fell on the shoulders of Uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck) who would invite the boy to his bar, The Dickens Bar –  not drinking but meeting the other patrons and learning social skills.  (“Uncle Charlies” is a gay bar franchise in NY city with two bars;  my first walkin occurred on a Sunday afternoon in March 1973 at Uncle Charlies South with its free buffet, the “goodie line”.) The bar had a library of classics books, most of all like “A Tale of Two Cities”.  Charlie also tells JT that a young man learn s to take care of his mom and of women and children in general, that he gets practical skills like changing a tire or changing his own oil or jump starting a car.  I was never good at that. The soundtrack treats us to the pop songs of the era, like “Dancing in the Moonlight”.

The film jumps to its second movement (like an Op 111) showing JR (Tye Sheridan) at Yale.  A black professor Van Dyke (Ezra Knight) assigns the students the task of writing a paper on the Iliad claiming that all storytelling in western literature comes from Homer.  (That wouldn’t go over with the woke now.) JR, quite likeable, builds bonds with his diverse roommates and dates.  Later  he interns at the NY Times but doesn’t get hired there as a reporter;  instead he got in at the Rocky Mountain News in Denver. In the last part of the film he tries to track down his dad near Greensboro, NC.

At the end, JR says, “someone becomes a writer when he says he is a writer”.  That’s not true of other professions, like lawyer, where you have to be licensed.

JR is unusual in that his own memoir became a best seller as his first book.  Personal accounts typically don’t sell that well  (literary agents and trade publishers will tell you that) and frequently wind up being self-published.  Yet, personal accounts do unfold like true stories, in sequences of events where one episode creates gain, loss, and irony – and one moves to the next “new normal”.  I could say that bout my own “Do Ask Do Tell” series.

The film opened in theaters mid December and on Amazon Prime (free to subscribers) today.  I gave the Amazon picture link for the screenplay, which I might get.

There is a comedy film with an unfortunately similar name, “The Tender Trap”.

The screenplay is sold on Amazon (shooting script) and the page numbers off even-odd cycle. 

This might be a good place to recommend visiting Tyler Mowery’s YouTube channel “The Writer’s Mind”.

Name: “The Tender Bar”

Director, writer: George Clooney, William Monahan (script), JR Moehringer (book)

Released: 2021

Format: 1.85:1

When and how viewed: Amazon Prime 2022/1/7

Length: R

Companies:Big Indie, Amazon Studios

Stars:   ****_

(Posted: Friday, January 7, 2022 at 11 AM EST)