Lily Rabe and Ben Affleck shine very brightly against a boring film.
Directed by George Clooney, Rabe stars as a mother forced to move in with her parents and brother (Affleck).
Two actors play her son: Daniel Ranieri (as young J.R.) and Tye Sheridan (as college-age J.R.)
All of the performances in this film are wonderful and elevate the watching experience.
Lily Rabe (American Horror Story) gives a career-best performance, and Affleck gives his second brilliant performance in a year (the first being in The Last Duel).
Daniel Ranieri and Tye Sheridan also provide beautiful performances, making the entire dynamic in the movie quite enjoyable to watch.
Rounding out the main cast are Christopher Lloyd as the Grandfather, Max Martini as "The Voice" Johnny Michaels (J.R.'s Birth father), Sondra James as the Grandmother, and Briana Middleton as J.R.'s love interest, Sydney.
There's nothing special about the film's direction, both in terms of the directing and the direction of the plot.
While it's based on a memoir, The Tender Bar seems to drag its feet with unnecessary information and character exposition.
The story also just wasn't enjoyable.
The worst part of this film is that it uses a tired coming-of-age story that we've all seen before while adding nothing new to its trite plot device.
Nothing new gets presented to the audience in The Tender Bar.
A down-on-his-luck kid gets into the college (Yale) of his dreams (full-ride) and matures. Whoop-de-do.
There is a lack of emotion throughout the film, with the only real emotion provided by Lily Rabe's Dorothy Moehringer -- who takes the backseat most of the film.
I cannot gush over Rabe's performance enough because she blew me away with her subtleties and power.
Her impact on the film is vital, which is more of a testament to how little impact other aspects of the film complete.
Screenwriter and Academy Award winner William Monohan (The Departed) greatly disappoints with this screenplay.
The script is all over the place, with (not entirely necessary) narration sprinkled in everywhere.
The narration hurts The Tender Bar immensely and distracts from essential parts of the story.
Essential scenes were told through narration, making them easy to forget, while in other places, the narration overshadowed something important.
Sometimes, silence is more effective than talking for the sake of talking.
There are so many scenes that leave much to be desired, whether it's script-related or not.
The script and directing are not the only downfalls (although the most significant and most apparent).
The production design and camera work do not add anything interesting to the movie, sadly adding to its dullness.
The sets and costumes add nothing new and create nothing special for viewers to watch.
The best word to describe everything on screen would be bland.
Nothing pops, nothing impresses. The cars look fantastic because they're old, but that's as far as it goes.
If the level of anything matched the quality performances, then this movie would be a homerun!
Sadly, the performances are the only thing that makes this movie worth watching.
There were multiple audience members asleep by the halfway mark during the screening we attended.
There was also a strong whisp of pretentiousness sprinkled throughout the entire story.
The Tender Bar was not a feel-good film as the advertisements suggest.
I left with a bitter taste in my mouth because the overall message wasn't anything uplifting.
It felt as if the story was bragging: "Hey, look, I got into Yale despite my familial issues; hey, look, I wrote a memoir about getting into Yale despite my familial issues."
Everything about this film left a yearning for more, whether that meant more emotion or more Lily Rabe.
So Fanatics, are you going to check out the Tender Bar when it premieres on Prime?
Let us know what you think if you do!
The Tender Bar plays in limited theaters until its debut on Amazon Prime on January 7th.
Michael Stack is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.