The Tender Bar | Third Space
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The Tender Bar

Sat 8 Jan 2022
Who do you imitate in life?
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3 out of 5 stars

George Clooney is best known for his numerous acting roles, but he has also stepped behind the camera multiple times. Whilst most of his acting roles have been met with praise, his directorial work is more hit and miss.

The Tender Bar is his latest work based on an adaptation of the coming of age memoir of JR Moehringer (Daniel Renieri, Tye Sheridan). The central character grows up in Long Island, with his mother, uncle and grandfather. JR spends his youth hanging out at the bar owned by his Uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck). He listens to his deadbeat father’s voice on the radio throughout the days, having barely ever met the man. From these humble origins, the young man seeks to become a lawyer, under his mother's encouragement, whilst his uncle recommends that he become a writer. As the years progress, JR gets into Yale and the latter half of the film follows his journey as a young man figuring out his identity.

Both Daniel Renieri and Tye Sheridando do good work to grant us insight into JR (Short of Junior). Still, the most significant insight into his life comes from the fantastic supporting ensemble that elevates sections of the film. Lily Rabe as his mother and Christopher Lloyd as his cantankerous grandfather provide moments of tough love and tender care. Yet, no one loves and cares more for this boy as he grows up than his Uncle Charlie played charmingly by Ben Affleck. Every time he is on screen, the film bursts with charisma and charm and his absences cast a long shadow. These supporting roles provide wisdom and guidance for the young man and help him along his personal road.

This story is a road we have seen before plenty of times and it is told straightforwardly by Clooney. There is nothing new or revolutionary in this coming-of-age story. Still, that is not necessarily a bad thing. The film is merely an average enjoyable coming-of-age tale about a simpler time told equally in a similar way.

The Tender Bar is a wholesome albeit unrevolutionary coming-of-age memoir bolstered by solid supporting performances that guide the film through to its expected heartfelt conclusion.

Reel Dialogue: What influences our identity?

Early in the movie, there is mention of JR’s forming identity. As a young boy who only goes by the initials of Junior as he is named after an estranged father whom he does not like being named after, JR is searching for identity. He does not want to be like his Dad, his Mum wants him to become a lawyer, and his Uncle Charlie just wants him to be himself. This all comes to a head as Uncle Charlie sits down with a school psychologist. The counseller commented that JR is in crisis and told his uncle that he is not helping his nephew understand how he sees himself.

Throughout the film, we see JR wrestling with his existence and idolizing his Uncle Charlie and wanting to be more like him. His identity initially is just a photocopy. It takes going to college and getting a job to finally figure out that he wants his identity to be a writer.

We all influence our identities which shape how we act, what we do, and what we want to be. The Apostle Paul calls people to imitate Christ and place their identities in Him. Most of our idols or influences fail us eventually. Do you think Christ will? Take some time to discover how Jesus can help you see how you see yourself in life.

1 Corinthians 11:1 - Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

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