‘The Tender Bar’: Trailer, release date and everything we know about the Ben Affleck movie

The Tender Bar
Ben Affleck and Tye Sheridan in 'The Tender Bar' (Image credit: Amazon Studios/Claire Folger)

Every holiday season needs a feel-good movie about family, and The Tender Bar looks to fill that spot in 2021. Based on a memoir of the same name by J.R. Moehringer, The Tender Bar features A-lister Ben Affleck and George Clooney leading the way for this potential crowd pleaser.

Just like your favorite local bar, we’ll be quick with the service. Here is everything we know about The Tender Bar.

‘The Tender Bar’ release date

The Tender Bar is an Amazon Original movie. This means that the film is first getting an exclusive theatrical release before it makes its way to Amazon Prime Video where it will be available for free to all Prime subscribers.

The theatrical run for The Tender Bar will begin in select theaters on Dec. 17 in the U.S., specifically in New York and Los Angeles. It will then open in theaters across the U.S. on Dec. 22. Though the film screened at the 2021 London Film Festival, there do not appear to be any plans for it to get a theatrical release outside of the U.S.

That means that the only way for international audiences to see The Tender Bar will be when it comes to Amazon Prime. Fortunately they won’t have to wait long, as The Tender Bar will get a global streaming premiere on Jan. 7.

‘The Tender Bar’ plot

The Tender Bar

Christopher Lloyd, Lily Rabe and Ben Affleck in 'The Tender Bar' (Image credit: Amazon Studios/Claire Folger)

The Tender Bar: A Memoir by J.R. Moehringer memoir that the movie is based on was published in 2005 and tells how a young J.R. spent time at his uncle’s bar and found varying types of father figures from the patrons. The book was a best-seller and Pulitzer Prize winner.

The synopsis of the film adaptation is that it tells the story of J.R., a boy growing up in Long Island who seeks out father figures among the patrons at his uncle Charlie’s bar. As his mother struggles to provide her son with opportunities denied to her — and to leave the rundown home of her father — J.R. begins to pursue his romantic and professional dreams.

‘The Tender Bar’ cast

Though Ben Affleck is getting top billing in The Tender Bar, the 49-year-old actor won’t be trying to play J.R. Instead, he will be taking on the role of Uncle Charlie, for which he has gotten some of the best reviews of his career. Affleck’s acting career has found a bit of a resurgence with 2020’s The Way Back and another supporting turn in The Last Duel; The Tender Bar looks to continue the actor's recent hot streak.

As for who is playing J.R., there will be two actors taking on that role. With The Tender Bar being a coming-of-age story, the movie will feature both a younger J.R. and an older J.R. The younger J.R. will be played by Daniel Ranieri, who is making his big screen debut with the role. Tye Sheridan, meanwhile, will tackle the older J.R. Sheridan has also been acting since a young age and has amassed a respectable list of credits, including Mud, playing Cyclops in X-Men: Apocalypse, Ready Player One and this year’s The Card Counter.

The Tender Bar

Tye Sheridan in 'The Tender Bar' (Image credit: Amazon Studios/Claire Folger)

Other members of J.R.’s family will include his mother, played by Lily Rabe (American Horror Story, The Undoing) as J.R.’s mom and Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future) as his grandpa.

Additional cast members include Briana Middleton, Max Martini, Rhenzy Feliz, Max Casella and Sondra James.

‘The Tender Bar’ director

Behind the camera for The Tender Bar is George Clooney, who is pulling double duty on this movie (directing and producing). While most people know Clooney for his many popular film and TV roles, he has put together a very respectable career as a director having helmed the movies Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Good Night, and Good Luck, The Ides of March, The Monuments Men and, most recently, The Midnight Sky.

In addition to Clooney, another key member of the behind-the-scenes team is William Monahan (The Departed), who wrote the screenplay for The Tender Bar.

‘The Tender Bar’ trailer

Amazon Prime has released just one trailer for The Tender Bar, but one is all you need to see the potential charmer that the movie can be. Watch the full trailer for The Tender Bar below. 

'The Tender Bar' reviews

The Tender Bar may need a drink, as it isn't getting the best reviews. The George Clooney-directed film currently sits at a 50% on Rotten Tomatoes, which officially classifies it as "Rotten," while its Metacritic score is a 54. The What to Watch review for The Tender Bar stuck with the drink metaphors, calling the movie a "watered-down cocktail lacking in any flavor." Despite the larger narrative, Ben Affleck has been highly praised for his work in the movie.

How to watch ‘The Tender Bar’

When The Tender Bar plays in select theaters, moviegoers will need to see when and where it is playing near them. Once that’s determined, you can either purchase your tickets online ahead of time or when you are at the movie theater (also look into movie theater subscription deals if you’re interested in making frequent trips to the movies more affordable). And please, be aware of your local mask/vaccine requirements to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for you and your fellow moviegoers.

After The Tender Bar’s three-week exclusive run in movie theaters, it will hit Amazon Prime Video, where anyone with an Amazon Prime account will be able to stream it for free.

Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Only Murders in the Building, Yellowstone, The Boys, Game of Thrones and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.