FlixChatter Review: THE TENDER BAR (2021)

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This is the third film by George Clooney I’ve seen so far, and also his second collaboration with Ben Affleck after they both produced the Oscar-winning ARGO. Both are actors who have become terrific directors in their own right… they have also played Batman on screen, surely an amusing anecdote for superhero fans.

Growing up in Long Island, young JR is raised by his single mom and only knows his absentee DJ father through his voice in the radio. His uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck) becomes his father figure who pass along his wisdom and love for books all while tending his bar, appropriately named Dickens.

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The young JR is played with wide-eyed curiosity by Daniel Ranieri, whose relationship with Affleck is pretty warm and affecting. I also like Lily Rabe as his mother whom I’ve never seen before, and Christopher Lloyd is quite memorable in a small role as JR’s grandpa. Having just seen Affleck being a royal pompous @$$ in The Last Duel, it’s nice to see him play a role close to his own self, a Northeaster (though New Yorkers would likely take issue with his Boston accent, ahah). HIs character reminds me a bit of Uncle Frank who has a similar relationship with his niece, though for the most part Affleck is more of a supporting character.

Tye Sheridan portrays JR in his college years and though Sheridan is a good actor, the film drags the most in the second act. Despite my best efforts, I can’t get into the story nor care that much about JR’s journey. The on-and-off romance with his fellow Yale student (Briana Middleton) is more puzzling than sizzling. In fact, I find myself trying to figure out what is so special about this story… So apparently Moehringer won a Pulitzer, but apart from a writer’s journey, it’s unclear what it is exactly to glean from this film.

I think one of my biggest issues with the movie is Affleck’s character… though his performance is good and he’s believable as JR’s father figure, uncle Charlie isn’t fully fleshed out that in the end, I have no idea who he is and what his motivations are. He seems really devoted to his sister and cares for his nephew but it’s not clear why he himself doesn’t have a family. Perhaps I missed something as I was trying to stay awake.

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The script is by William Monahan, who won an Oscar for The Departed, but I can hardly remember much of the dialog. Can’t say this is Clooney’s best work either, it’s just too slow and overly nostalgic. I did enjoy the soundtrack as well as the fabulous 70s wardrobe, but the lack of emotional connection with any single person in the film makes for a rather tedious experience. Unlike the fun 70s music, this coming-of-age drama struggles with getting the right groove.

2-half Reels


Have you seen THE TENDER BAR? Well, what did YOU think?

TCFF 2017 Day 2 – ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and silent MN-made b&w film ‘If Memory Serves’

WOW, Day 2 of the 11-day film fest has come and gone! I had to leave a bit early Thursday night for a prior commitment, but I did manage to see two films and also caught up w/ a friend & fellow film blogger Emmylou, who’s moved out to L.A. earlier this year.

Here’s my quick thoughts on the two films I saw on Day 2…


A Midsummer Night’s Dream is Shakespeare’s most popular stage work. In fact I just saw it recently at the Guthrie. I’m not a purist so I always enjoy seeing fresh interpretations of classic works, and setting it in modern-day Hollywood adds a layer of whimsy. Now, whether it works or not, I’d leave to Shakespeare enthusiasts, but I think this quirky adaptation is enjoyable even if it at times borders on the absurd.

Minnesota native Rachael Leigh Cook (who’ll be coming to TCFF at the second screening on closing night) plays Hermia who’s in love with Lysander (Hamish Linklater) and Lily Rabe plays Helena, who’s in love with Demetrius (Finn Wittrock). Interesting that before yesterday I didn’t know who Avan Jogia was, but I saw him two days in a row as he’s playing Puck here and he was in The Year of Spectacular Men. They retained most of the Shakespearean language, and as the film premise says… bold declarations, idiotic miscommunications and wandering amorous eyes feel right at home in the Hollywood setting where the studio honchos are practically royalty.

The film is more amusing than laugh-at-loud funny, though the literal interpretation of the character bottom (hard to get that actual butt head out of your mind!!). People who love Shakespeare AND Star Wars might get a kick out of this film. For me, it was a pretty enjoyable way to spend an afternoon, though it made me want to rewatch the dreamier 1999 version with Michelle Pfeiffer as a truly fetching fairy queen.


Now, THIS is the kind of movie I love to discover at film festivals! I don’t see very many silent b&w films, so seeing one that’s set in the Twin Cities by a MN-based filmmaker and crew is quite rare. I really love this one. I was quite swept away by its style, production design and the actors’ expressive faces. I even remember as I was watching, I looked around and wish more people had gone and seen this film.

Written and directed by MN filmmaker Andrew DeVary, If Memory Serves is a sweet, funny and sentimental tribute to the bygone era. A self-admitted Charlie Chaplin fan, he truly captured the simplicity and sweetness of the 1940s and there’s a poignant love story at the heart of it. The Cadet (Matthew Englund) and Mary (Morgan LeClaire) are two lovers who suffered a near-miss (I wouldn’t spoil how) and throughout the course of the film, we’re left wondering if and when their paths will ever cross again. DeVary created characters who are such delightful characters that it’s easy to root for them and want them to be together.

Photo courtesy of Andrew DeVary via Facebook

Most of the film is silent with only a couple of ‘talkie’ moments and during the Q&A, DeVary revealed the reason for that he likes the idea that ‘love allows communication to happen.’ I like the direction and pacing, which at an already swift 67 minutes never overstays your welcome. I also learned during Q&A that the film’s shot digitally in HD so it’s really to the editors’ credit that the film looked appropriately grainy and old school throughout, which adds to its inherent charm. Kudos to Simone LeClaire who’s the producer and production designer of the film. At a shoestring budget ($2300 bucks!) I thought the film looked believably set in the WWII period. I also adore the music by Twin Cities composer silent film composer Andy McCormick whose band Dreamland Faces often play live music for silent films.

I highly recommend this to classic film enthusiast, or even those looking for something off-the-beaten path. Given the subject matter dealing with love and memory, this is one film I’ll remember for a while and I hope it gets some kind of distribution so more people can see it! Check out the trailer below:


What’s in store for Day 3

Friday 10/20 is a very special day for me as at 12:30pm, my short film HEARTS WANT will be shown to the public for the first time… as part of the ‘Ties That Bind Us’ short block.

But there are also a ton of great films playing Friday…

Two great documentaries ABU and A Gray State (that I’ve blogged about here), and feature films 20 Weeks, Tater Tot & Patton, The Midnighter and Wilderness. See all of the films playing Friday here.

So, stay tuned to more daily TCFF coverage!