Eight nominations for different awards has at this time ‘The Tender Bar’ (or ‘The bar of great hopes’, as it has been translated into Spanish) since its premiere in Amazon Prime Video. And, when you go to IMDb, you can see that most of them are for his supporting actor, a Ben Affleck in a state of glory: Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild Awards, San Diego Film Critics Society Awards…
He is the first stronghold of the film. Affleck he is an actor who appears and disappears like the Guadiana among the best of Hollywood; capable of being part of movies to forget like all the superhero movies he has starred in but also of leaving us with a great taste in our mouths in other films such as ‘Good Will Hunting’, ‘Argo’ or more recently ‘The Last Duel’.
The second strong name of the film is its director, fellow actor George Clooney. To tell the truth, his latest titles as a filmmaker (‘Suburbicón’ or ‘Midnight Sky’) have been far from his first, those great ‘Good Night and Good Luck’ or ‘The Ides of March’. With ‘The Tender Bar’ he takes flight slightly; Let’s hope it doesn’t mess up again.
Third bulwark to take into account: J. R. Moehringer. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who wrote ‘Open’, the lauded biography of tennis player André Agassi, is author also of his own memoir, ‘The bar of great hopes’ (Duomo Editions, 15.10 euros), on which the film is based.
We go there with a fourth and a fifth name that The Tender Bar’ is based on. We talk about Daniel Ranieri, the 10-year-old boy who stars in the film and who has shown enormous talent and Christopher Lloyd, the unforgettable Doc from ‘Back to the Future’, whom we like to continue seeing in form.
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The film opens with young JR (Ranieri) and his mother (Lily Rabe) driving down the road listening to ‘Radar Love’ at full volume, The Golden Earring song. We are in 1973 and, as soon as the DJ appears on the radio, the mother turns off: the one speaking is JR’s father They both go with all their belongings to the dilapidated house of her father (Lloyd).
The narrator of the film is JR from 2005 (we believe, because it is the date the book was published; it arrived in Spain ten years later). In that new life the great reference of the child is his uncle Charlie (Affleck), who will teach you important lessons while you are serving at The Dickens Bar: glorious that prays “Never, under any circumstances, hit a woman, even if she stabbed you with scissors.”
Little JR says he wants to be a writer and starts his own newspaper, ‘The Family Gazette’. To learn to write, he is inspired by all the books his uncle lends him, who also takes him bowling with his friends from the bar. Mom wants me to go to Yale and become a lawyer and right away we see young JR (Tye Sheridan) and we’re in the early ’80s. Then the times of university will come, her first love… but we are not going to tell everything here because you have to see her.
In some aspects, the film reminds us of ‘Lady Bird’, but it is more unsuccessful than that of Greta Gerwig and, we insist, you could have gotten much more out of all the characters in ‘The Tender Bar’, because Ben Affleck’s wins by a landslide. Without him, ‘The Bar of High Expectations’ would definitely fade away.
We have before us a film that could be defined with the saying “much ado about nothing”. Clooney had some extraordinary material before him, and instead of making an outstanding film, he has delivered one that remains in the dust. It really captures ’70s America (small detail: is ’80s the same, George?) and we love how it captures the nostalgia. But little else.
Charlie tries to make up for the absence of his father, that DJ whose only presence is through the radio, an idea that could have been delved into, but the script reviews common themes such as heartbreak, career anxiety, graduation, presented with great simplicity. JR’s family hasn’t been explored enough either: why is Grandpa such an eccentric, stingy old man?
Ultimately, is it worth spending 1 hour and 45 minutes on this movie? Yes, it is entertaining and has successful moments, but ‘The Tender Bar’ is not going to be the movie that is going to change your life. But surely it will change Ben Affleck’s career.
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