THE TENDER BAR – Review by Susan Granger

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Directed by George Clooney, this gentle, coming-of-age story revolves around J.R. (played as a child by Daniel Ranieri, then by Tye Sheridan), growing up in Manhasset, Long Island, during the late 1970s/early 1980s with his single mother Dorothy (Lily Rabe), cantankerous grandfather (Christopher Lloyd) and affable Uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck), who proudly drives a stunning blue-green Cadillac convertible.

A beloved figure at his working-class bar, The Dickens, philosophizing Uncle Charlie offers naïve, vulnerable J.R. unconditional love, promising: “I’m never going to let you win, and I’m always going to tell you the truth.” Insofar as “the male sciences” go, he cautions: “Don’t ever hit a woman. Even if she stabs you with scissors.”

Uncle Charlie encourages his ambition to become a writer, knowing that J.R. will inevitably track down his deadbeat dad (Max Martini), a radio disc jockey known as “The Voice” who never wanted him and doesn’t care about him.

Based on Pulitzer Prize-winner J.R. Moehringer’s 2005 memoir, it’s somewhat superficially adapted by screenwriter William Monahan, who follows J.R. to Yale, where he falls in love with a classmate (Briana Middleton) and ignores his mother’s desire for him to go to law school in favor of becoming a journalist.

(In recent years, Moehringer collaborated with Andre Agassi and Nike co-founder Phil Knight on their autobiographies and worked with Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, on his, scheduled for later this year.)

FYI: A bar known as The Dickens – with a fading likeness of Charles Dickens painted on the side of the building – was a real Long Island establishment but, for the film, the setting was re-created in several Massachusetts towns.

Not surprisingly, the Screen Actors Guild nominated Affleck as Best Supporting Actor for this film. It’s been a productive year for Affleck, who was also almost unrecognizable as the villain in Ridley Scott’s “The Last Duel.” FYI: Affleck won an Oscar in 1997 for co-writing “Good Will Hunting” with Matt Damon.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, The Tender Bar is a nostalgic, sensitive 6, streaming on Amazon Prime.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.