The Tender Bar
By Tara McNamara,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Poignant coming-of-age dramedy has language, sex.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
You are enough to succeed. Themes of family, identity, and finding your own way in the world. Uncle Charlie spouts off lots of advice (presented as "man sciences"); families can discuss the validity of his lessons -- and the idea that his advice represents a dated view of masculinity. Stereotypical romantic plot involves a boy pursuing a girl and her playing hard to get (which could reinforce iffy relationship dynamics).
Positive Role Models
Uncle Charlie is JR's male role model. He's rough around the edges but smart, well-read, and a leader; his delivery isn't always the most appropriate for kids, but he deeply loves and looks out for his nephew and doles out pointed advice to help JR become a successful adult. JR's family bickers, and JR's grandfather is a curmudgeon, but their tight-knit nature is enviable -- something that JR appreciates more than they do.
Main characters are part of a White working class family whose patriarch attended a prestigious university; the idea of a college education is valued, but characters without one are still portrayed as worthy. Actors of color in many supporting roles, including students and professors at an Ivy League college, JR's love interest, and a kind cop. Financially successful interracial couple.
Did we miss something on diversity? Suggest an update.
Violence & Scariness
Fistfight. Domestic violence off camera.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Loud but not graphic sex scene. Recurring joke about having sex.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Very strong language throughout, including name-calling: "a--hole," "balls," "bastard," "bulls--t," "c--k," "d--k," "hell," "numnuts," "poontang," "pr--k," "s--t," "son of a bitch," "turd," and many uses of "f--k." Exclamations include "G-damn," "oh my God," "swear to God," "Jesus Christ" and "Jesus Mother of God."
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Products & Purchases
Cars are seen through the male gaze: A Toronado and a Volvo, in particular, are idolized for different reasons.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Smoking and drinking, including by an preteen boy. Many scenes in Uncle Charlie's bar. Drinking is depicted as something "a man" does but also needs to keep an eye on. Reference to a hangover. It's implied that drinking has negatively influenced the life of a character with an alochol dependency and those around him.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Tender Bar is director George Clooney's book-based coming-of-age dramedy about a preteen boy growing up in the shadow of his irresponsible father in the 1970s. Spending his days at a bar in Long Island, JR (Daniel Ranieri) gets life lessons in the "man sciences" ("take care of your mother," "have a car," etc.) from the proprietor, his Uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck). Charlie's advice is rooted in dated views of masculinity, but his lessons are ultimately about being responsible. Not surprisingly given the setting and time period, characters smoke and drink throughout, including JR. Positive themes relate to the importance of family and the value of a college education. Strong language permeates the film (especially "f--k"), including lots of name calling ("a--hole," "pr--k") and some crude references from a negative character ("poon---g"). There's a comically loud but non-graphic sex scene and an instance of domestic violence.
To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Where to Watch
Videos and Photos
The Tender Bar
Based on 2 parent reviews
SLOW AND POINTLESS
Report this review
Watch something else
Report this review
What's the Story?
Adapted from J.R. Moehringer's memoir, THE TENDER BAR follows JR (Daniel Ranieri), an 11-year-old boy whose divorced single mom (Lily Rabe) has fallen on hard economic times and moved back in with her family in Long Island. With JR's irresponsible father rarely in the picture, JR's Uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck) takes the boy under his wing and teaches him how to navigate life as a man.
Is It Any Good?
This poignant coming-of-age story shows that life is a cocktail of lessons that, when stirred, helps you grow up right. Advice pours faster than the drinks at Uncle Charlie's bar, and, just like a shot of aged barrel whiskey, some of that advice goes down a little rough, but the overall takeaway is smooth. JR's influences come from the many people he encounters: A priest (Billy Meleady) he meets on a train, the regulars who frequent Charlie's bar, his put-upon grandfather (Christopher Lloyd), his handwringing mother (Rabe), his Yale roommate (Rhenzy Feliz), and, of course, his revered Uncle Charlie (Affleck, in a career-defining role). JR is also shaped by behaviors, trying to figure out who he is since his family makes it clear that he shouldn't follow in the footsteps of the man he's named after: his largely absent father (Max Martini).
As much as the advice dispensed in the movie is directed at a preteen boy, the messages are intended to reach adults, too. JR says, "When you're 11 years old, you want an Uncle Charlie." As we only see JR's memories from his own perspective, Charlie is essentially God. In JR's 11-year-old eyes, Charlie is the epitome of cool: He speaks about life with authority, drives a muscle car, does well with the ladies, leads his barside community, and dominates in a game of duckpins. But director George Clooney leaves breadcrumbs for viewers to realize that Charlie doesn't quite have it as together as JR believes. The Tender Bar is meant to be a like a night out: You sip the experience, you yammer about it, and you're left with great memories to reflect on later.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the value and importance of having a role model or mentor. Do you have anyone in your life who fulfills that purpose?
Discuss Uncle Charlie's advice: What's good, what's not, and what could use a little tweaking? How does it reflect a dated/incomplete view of masculinity? Parents, what's the best life advice you ever received? Kids, what's something you were told, read, or saw in a movie that has stuck with you?
What makes a film fit into the coming-of-age genre? How does The Tender Bar compare to other coming-of-age films you've seen?
How does JR demonstrate humility? How can we be humble while also projecting confidence? Why is this an important character strength?
Are smoking and drinking glamorized in the film? Do you think Charlie influences JR's drinking and smoking?
- In theaters: December 17, 2021
- On DVD or streaming: January 7, 2022
- Cast: Ben Affleck, Tye Sheridan, Christopher Lloyd
- Director: George Clooney
- Studio: Amazon Studios
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Cars and Trucks, Book Characters, Brothers and Sisters, Great Boy Role Models
- Character Strengths: Communication
- Run time: 104 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language throughout and some sexual content
- Last updated: June 8, 2023
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
Where to Watch
Our Editors Recommend
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate