George Clooney directs ‘The Tender Bar’ for Prime Video, the screen adaptation of the memoirs of American journalist and Purlitzer award-winning New York Times writer J.R. Moehringer, published in Spain and translated as ‘El bar de las grandes esperanzas’, which premiere this January 7 on the Amazon platform.
Clooney parked several other film projects in recent months to work exclusively on this poignant story set in a Long Island (New York) bar called ‘The Dickens’, where leather-bound books lined the shelves behind the bar, perched next to bottles of hard liquor, where the protagonist, a young J.R., grows up surrounded by books, glasses and the bar’s regulars and discovers the father figure who will guide him through the ever-complex passage from childhood to adulthood, from school to university, and from there onto his first professional experience. In between the mountains of books and regular customers, the film follows in the footsteps of this young boy as he goes in search of his own voice to find his own destiny.
Ben Affleck plays his maternal uncle Charlie, who runs the local bar and instructs little J.R. in life’s big lessons, and that includes everything from the vocational to guiding him in his passion for reading, to those that lead him to the discovery of his first college love and his first major disappointments. Charlie is the one who encourages J.R. in his early attempts to become a writer, who also teaches him what it means to be a man and how to respect women.
Affleck, together with the bar’s regulars, effectively replace the absent, delinquent, violent and abusive father who abandoned his mother Dorothy and her son before he could even pronounce his first words and whom the protagonist only fleetingly knows by his voice on the radio where he works as a DJ and radio announcer. A voice that, during his childhood, little J.R. will obsessively seek out and idealize, trying to imagine a connection of sorts with the man on the other side, although the few times they do interact mostly and only serve to reinforce what a scumbag and disappointment the guy actually is.
After winning the Oscar together for ‘Argo’ in 2012, Clooney has finally managed to reunite with Affleck on a shared project after his determination finally coming together in this Amazon production, even though Clooney opted not to reserve a screen appearance for himself in the film, Affleck however gives a stellar performance playing the uncle every child would love to have growing up in this engaging and moving story. For George Clooney, ‘The Tender Bar’ comes on the heels of sci-fi thriller T’he Midnight Sky’, starring, directed and produced by Clooney for Netflix.
The narration in ‘The Tender Bar’ is delivered several decades later by an older, wiser and much better-spoken version of J.R. with the adult version and Yale graduate played by Tye Sheridan, a feature reminiscent of the Spanish hit television series ‘Cuéntame’. And this film also features a child actor, Daniel Ranieri, who plays 9-year-old J.R. with the same magnetism as the young Ricardo Gómez portrayed Carlitos Alcántara, thus becoming a household name here in Spain. Other notable cast members include Lily Rabe and Christopher Lloyd.