Rating: 2.0 / 5.0
There are some movie adaptations that absolutely don’t have to be made, and “The Tender Bar” is certainly one of them. Unfortunately, the film also doesn’t redeem itself by being well done or fun to watch.
Directed by George Clooney and based on the memoir of the same name by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and journalist JR Moehringer, “The Tender Bar” eliminates the gist of what makes memoirs so great – Moehringer’s handwriting itself – and replaces it with excessive exposure, weak dialogue and poorly paced narration. Adaptation, both in form and in quality, takes away the magic of the original work; Not only does the film add nothing to the memories it is based on, it could also degrade the legacy of the story.
“The Tender Bar” follows the life of writer JR Moehringer (Tye Sheridan) from his childhood until shortly after graduating from Yale University. Raised by a single mother in his grandfather’s house on Long Island, Moehringer grew up amid family tensions fueled by poverty and a tumultuous relationship with his absent father (Max Martini). As he grew older, Moehringer was determined to make his mother’s (Lily Rabe) wish come true that he attended Yale University, decided to become a writer, and bonded with his uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck) and Charlie’s patrons at a bar. local.
Ironically, one of the weakest elements of the film is the writing. The dialogue seems inconsistent and unnatural, especially in the scenes with young Moehringer (Daniel Ranieri), of whom there are several – young JR just doesn’t look like a child. Bad writing later presents a host of other problems. While there are a handful of properly written scenes and characters (most of Ben Affleck’s lines are emotionally satisfying), most are difficult to understand. We just don’t know them well enough, and the dialogue serves more to move the story forward than to delve deeper into the characters or their desires and motivations.
The excessive use of the film’s voiceover is also one of its most infuriating features; he does himself a great disservice by forcibly feeding audience exposure and information about the characters’ feelings. “The Tender Bar” would be much more effective if more of its storytelling was left to dialogue and action. The abuse of explanatory voiceover comes across as a crutch – a clear sign of the script’s lack of confidence. At worst, it’s also a cover-up for Clooney’s mediocre directing, and at best, stifles opportunities for decent directing and creative choices to shine.
“The Tender Bar” also changes focus far too many times. The film constantly directs audiences’ attention back and forth, first to Moehringer’s difficult relationship with his father, and then to his various relationships with other characters (including one of the most on-screen romances. most frustrating in recent memory), and a common thread on a career at The New York Times. There isn’t enough time spent on any of these storylines, which makes each new episode in their progression forgettable and bland. It’s almost impossible to identify a single main and underlying conflict, as the film unfolds too much and never finds a way to piece its story together at the end.
The acting in “The Tender Bar” is mixed, but overall quite poor. Sheridan does a pretty good job as Moehringer, but isn’t very exciting to watch and doesn’t do much to make his character particularly likable. Rabe performs slightly better as a stressed-out but well-meaning mother, but the biggest – perhaps the only – redemptive factor is Affleck’s performance as Uncle Charlie. The writing and acting only align well in the character of Uncle Charlie, and Affleck disappears in that role; Charlie is sardonic, intelligent, extraordinarily likeable and the father figure that Moehringer needed from the start.
Sadly, the whole movie can be summed up in one word: weak. With the allure of its original story poured down the sink, “The Tender Bar” is obviously watered down.
Joy Diamond covers the film. Contact her at [email protected].