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Rated 3.05 stars
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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Heartwarming Coming-Of-Age Story
by James Colt Harrison

Pulitzer Prize winner JR Moehringer wrote the book upon which The Tender Bar film is based. And Oscar® winner William Monahan adapted it for the screen. Although the book was written in 2005, it took more than 15 years to end up as a movie in the capable hands of director/ film star George Clooney for Amazon Studios.

Ben Affleck plays one of two main characters in the story, that of Uncle Charlie to his nephew JR. The young boy is played by endearing newcomer Daniel Ranieri. He idolizes his uncle and looks up to him mainly because his deadbeat father has disappeared and totally neglects the boy. Born with a Golden Voice, the boy’s dad is played by meanie Max Martini, an ultra-masculine radio announcer who never has time for his son. Martini will appeal to the ladies in a physical way, but his character is strictly bad news.

Uncle Charlie owns a local bar filled with an assortment of male-bonding types who carouse and drink together and have great fun. Max Casella (Chief), Michael Braun (Bobo) and Matthew Delamater (Joey D) take little JR under their wing and include him on jaunts to the beach in Affleck’s old Cadillac convertible. They even let him steer the car. Gosh, that brings back memories as my own father used to let me steer the car when I was a wee lad! It’s a very endearing thing to do for an impressionable little boy and very male-bonding.

Little JR is a thoughtful boy. He eventually grows up into young actor Tye Sheridan. His mom, played by the fetching Lily Rabe, looks young enough to be his sister. She has great plans for her son to attend Yale and make something of himself. He wants to be a writer, a novelist, and works hard to get into the prestigious school. Young Sheridan is certainly an actor to watch. He dominates the screen with his hopes and desires. He has a youthful masculinity about him that will make the ladies squeal. JR loves his well-educated Uncle Charlie very much as he is charismatic and has introduced the boy to the world of literature.

JR has two great pals as room-mates at college. One is the exotic looking Wesley (Rhenzy Feliz) and the token Asian egghead, Jimmy (Ivan Leung)! They give JR advice about life and girls. JR has met and fallen in love with the very beautiful Sydney (Brianna Middleton), a lass way out of his league socially. He is overwhelmed by her independence, exotic looks, and the way she toys with him like a cat and mouse. His first sexual experience is overwhelming.

This is a heartwarming coming-of-age story to which many twenty-somethings can relate.

Without a doubt, the part of Uncle Charlie is also one of Ben Affleck’s best acting roles. He is charismatic, funny, loving, a rascal, intellectual, and a role model for JR. He’s no saint and does not live up to his own potential, but he is a good influence for JR. Both leading actors may be up for recognition come awards time.

This is a classic story with, surprise!---a beginning, a middle and an end. Today, that is revolutionary. It’s about people, not aliens, space ships or explosions. Refreshing.

(Released by Amazon Studios and rated “R” for language throughout and some sexual content.)

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