Rated: R
Release Date: 12/17/2021
Production Company: Amazon Studios

Ben Affleck, Tye Sheridan, Lily Rabe
Christopher Lloyd and Daniel Ranieri.

Director: George Clooney. Producers: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Ted Hope, David Webb and J.R. Moehringer (Book: "The Tender Bar"). Executive Producers: Barbara A. Hall and J.R. Moehringer. Screenwriters: Cinematographer:
By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs

George Clooney could use a big hit movie at the box office right now. His 2020 sci-fi drama “The Midnight Sky” was named one of the top films by the National Board of Review and it was nominated for “Best Visual Effects” at the 93rd Academy Awards but lost to “Tenet.”

So, can Clooney’s new coming-of-age drama “The Tender Bar,” which he directed and co-produced resonate with audiences during a very crowded and busy holiday movie season?

It should. “The Tender Bar” is a heart-warming story about family, forgiveness, and friendship. It rolls out in limited theatrical release on Dec. 17, following a wider expansion Dec. 22 before streaming on Amazon Prime Video Jan. 7.

“The Tender Bar,” from screenwriter William Monahan (“The Departed” and “The Gambler”), is an adaptation of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and novelist, J. R. Moehringer’s 2005 novel of the same name. It chronicles Moehringer’s life growing up in the small town of Manhasset in Long Island, New York.

It’s 1973 and nine-year-old J.R. Maguire (played by adorable newcomer, Daniel Ranieri) and his downtrodden mother Dorothy (Lily Rabe, TV’s “American Horror Story” and “The Underground Railroad”), have to suddenly move in with her parents (a terrific Christopher Lloyd, “Senior Moment”) and Sondra James, “Shiva Baby”) in their dilapidated old house in New York. It’s a major step backwards for Dorothy and J.R.

But, they have nowhere else to turn since J.R.’s father, a prominent New York radio DJ known as “The Voice” (Max Martini, TV’s “The Purge”) has shut them out of his life.

Thank goodness, J.R. still has a “father figure” with Uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck, “The Last Duel”) who also lives in the cramped house. He’s a bit of a loose cannon, a small-time gambler, but overall means well. Uncle Charlie works/owns the local bar called The Dickens. It’s a dive that everyone loves to hang out at. It’s different than most bars because it has walls of books flowing throughout it.

Uncle Charlie really likes J.R. and teaches the kid the way of the world as he sees it. He tells J.R. that he’s terrible at sports and should find something that he likes and is good at. It turns out J.R. loves to read and takes a liking to the books at “The Dickens” as well as the numerous ones that Uncle Charlie has in his room.

The more he reads, the more J.R. realizes he wants to be a writer. His mother, who never went to college, insists that J.R. go to Yale and become an attorney. He likes that idea and over the years studies, writes and reads everything he can. When J.R. who is now grown and played by Tye Sheridan, (“Card Counter” and “Voyagers”) gets accepted into Yale on a full scholarship, his mother is over the moon. J.R. is pretty thrilled too.

J.R.’s entire world soon changes. His roommates Wesley (Rhenzy Feliz, TV’s “American Horror Stories”) and Jimmy (Ivan Leung, TV’s “Grey’s Anatomy”) seem to come from money, but don’t necessarily judge him. They try and help him fit into the Ivy League world.

J.R is taken by Sydney, (Brianna Middleton, “Augustus”) a pretty, young woman in one of his classes, but soon realizes she is way out of his league. Things don’t turn out quite as planned for J.R. as he winds up working at the New York Times but still wants more from his career.

“The Tender Bar” effectively uses flashbacks to enhance the story and they don’t detract from the movie. The film also features one of the most eclectic soundtracks and includes gems like “Dancing in the Moonlight” from King Harvest, Tyrone Davis’ “If I Could Turn Back the Hands of Time,” “Sooner or Later” from the Grass Roots,” Junior Walker & The All-stars “Shotgun” and the Isley Brothers “It’s Your Thing”, among others. Gotta love that 1960s and 1970s music.

“The Tender Bar” works largely because of its likeable and talented cast. Affleck delivers another exceptional performance as does Rabe, Lloyd and Sheridan. But it’s the kid, Daniel Ranieri, in his big screen debut who leaves a lasting impression and will warm your heart.

Editor's Note: Be sure to catch my movie talk segment on the Kitty O'Neal Show Fridays at 6:20 p.m. on radio station KFBK 93.1 FM and 1530 AM.

Watch This Trailer For "THE TENDER BAR"

Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), The Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC), The American Film Institute (AFI), and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.


Book Of Numbers Title: Book Of Numbers
Year Released: 1973
Running Time: 81
Production Company: AVCO Embassy Pictures
Director: Raymond St. Jacques
Director of Photography: Gayne Rescher
Screenwriter: Raymond St. Jacques
Author: Lana K. Wilson-Combs

REVIEW: As a kid growing up in San Bernardino, California, I remember this cute, curly-headed, green eyed young guy coming over my family’s house with his handyman/electrician father to do some repair work. Little did I know the shy teen would become an iconic TV star.

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