Saturday, December 25, 2021

'Tender Bar' feels like a welcoming stop for Movie Christmas 2021

Our "12 Days of Movie Christmas" concludes with a final review for the crowded and busy holiday season. Do enjoy a Very Merry one today and always, and please stay safe until joining us here again in early 2022, perhaps with "Macbeth" and "A Hero" tagging along.

No surprise that "The Tender Bar" starts to bend -- a lot!--  with the disappearance of a youngster (the bright little Daniel Ranieri), who grows up too quickly as protagonist JR (without the periods) during the first 45 minutes of this intended charmer.

He's the son of  a supportive single mom (Lily Rabe), and a dee-jay Dad (Max Martini) he barely knows. Nevertheless, JR enjoys the heck out of going back "home" to live with a dysfuntional extended family to call his own.

His congested Manhasset madhouse is headed by constantly mumblin' and grumblin' Grandpa (Christopher Lloyd, with one delightful segment concerning his grandson's elementary school), and Uncle Charlie, the smarter-than-he occasionally acts barroom philosopher, who really does own the beer joint where JR learns just about anything he'll "ever need to know."

The latter talks and sounds like Sonny Corleone (from "The Godfather" movies) and looks just like Ben Affleck, giving a wonderfully special turn as surrogate father to Ranieri's JR and intermittent mentor to the college-age writer (Tye Sheridan) this mostly true tale forces him to become.

The mixed-bag telling is based on the same-name memoir by J.R. Moerhinger, written by Oscar-winner William Monahan, and directed by George Clooney, always staying behind the camera here.

(The Tender Bar" is now playing at a few select theaters, including an exclusive Northeast Ohio run at the Cedar Lee in Cleveland Heights, until it streams Jan. 7 on Amazon Prime.)

Rated "R" by MPAA: language thoughout and some sexual content; 1:46; $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

And, if you missed our first 11 offerings: "Nightmare Alley (Day 1)," "Spider-Man: No Way Home, "Swan Song," "The Lost Daughter," "Mother/Android," "The Novice, "Sing 2," "Licorice Pizza," "Beanie Mania," "The Matrix Resurrections" and "A Journal for Jordan")

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