Introducing Ben Affleck’s Best Role Ever
A Spoiler-Free Review of ‘The Tender Bar’ on Amazon Prime
Let me introduce you to perhaps the best Ben Affleck role ever. The movie is called ‘The Tender Bar’ and it recently came out on Amazon Prime — for free by the way. It’s directed by none other than George Clooney and features some other actors you may recognize such as Tye Sheridan, Christopher Lloyd, Lily Rabe, and Max Martini.
“Within the movie, there is organic hyperfocus on the characters and dialogue rather than their setting.”
The plot is quite simple. It’s based on the memoir by J.R. Moehringer, who is a Pulitzer prize writer. Nine-year-old J.R. moves into his grandparent's house in Long Island. Since his biological father is absent, he looks for another figure in his life. And he falls under the unconventional tutelage of his uncle Charlie, played by Ben Affleck. Charlie is a self-educated bartender who teaches J.R how to be a man and introduces him to the regulars at his bar. As J.R grows older, he pursues his dream of becoming a writer.
This story wastes no time swooping into the turbulent childhood of JR, which forces you to become familiar with his world and life very quickly. From there, Affleck’s character becomes a superior one in the story. Everyone either has or wants an uncle charlie in their life. One of the reasons Affleck’s character is so intriguing in this film is because it could’ve very easily gone array. We’re talking about a character who works in a bar called the ‘Dickens’ and is mentoring a young kid with a turbulent domestic life on how to become a man.
Within that, there are so many cliche pitfalls that the movie could’ve succumbed to. But it avoids all of them and ends up creating a character in Affleck that is similar to the stereotypical barber. Charlie has a seemingly never-ending reservoir of wisdom that he divulges to JR. And has a warmth that makes him feel familiar which draws you towards his character. Instead of giving JR the typical platitude advice, he gives him the real honest truth.
Affleck plays the character in a manner that makes the warmth and familiarity palpable. He makes you gravitate towards his character and only serves to strengthen the bond with Tye Sheridan (J.R). One key to this success is Affleck making the dialogue his own. There’s a difference between an actor saying a line and actively participating in the dialogue. Each version comes across in a noticeably different way. And the best actors make it seem like their character is genuinely thinking or reacting during the dialogue. It’s small mannerisms or physical signals within the dialogue that takes Affleck’s acting here to the next level.
Clooney’s direction here is also superb, and he absolutely nailed the casting. Within the movie, there is organic hyperfocus on the characters and dialogue rather than their setting. That’s one of the most unique aspects of this movie, it’s not necessarily about where but how the characters are interacting.
There’s something so poignant about the journey of JR. He’s searching for his destiny and purpose but you never feel like he’s truly lost. There is this entire system of people around him that are fully in his corner; cheering on his successes and advising him in his ruts. Maybe that’s the point, we are never as good as our best days and never as bad as our worse ones. We are the person that the people around us mold and push us to become.
Now, this is definitely a take-it-or-leave-it type of movie. It’s not going to change your world but maybe for a moment in time, you can see part of yourself or others in these characters and empathize with a journey other than your own. ‘The Tender Bar’ landed as an 8.8/10 on my scale. Check out the trailer below!
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