George Clooney’s latest directing effort, The tender bar is a cheesy coming-of-age film about an aspiring writer who leaves no stone unturned in the development of his mediocre talents. JR Moehringer – whose memoir of the same name is based on the film – may be a terrific writer in real life (he has a Pulitzer Prize and New York Times and LA Times signings), but you wouldn’t know. never the way Clooney and screenwriter William Monahan (The Departed) describe his story.
Hardly a scene passes without her absent alcoholic father being pointed out as the source of all her psychological baggage; indeed, it becomes a bit of a joke, perhaps Clooney’s way of acknowledging how hackneyed it all is in hopes that we’re going with the flow. It would be easier, however, if he had created a better relaxing film instead of the one he’s attempting here, filled with farting grandpas, harassed mothers and a self-made bar-owning uncle who’s always ready with a philosophy. bar stool to guide the young JR on his way.
That uncle is played by Ben Affleck, who demonstrated in last year’s harrowing Finding the Way Home just how brilliant he can be playing blue-collar workers trapped by circumstance. Here, however, he’s playing the movie star version of a working-class guy and while that reflects how JR sees him, as the film moves back and forth between JR’s childhood and his college days. (he’s played by Daniel Ranieri in the former and Tye Sheridan in the latter), this relentlessly rose-tinted point of view can’t help but cringe.
Directed by two-time Oscar-winning Iranian author Asghar Farahadi, A hero opens with a newly paroled prisoner scaling an elaborate scaffolding system – a clever metaphor for the convoluted social structures he will soon have to negotiate if he is to escape the financial turmoil that landed him in prison. It’s about Rahim (Amir Jadidi), a somewhat charming man who still believes he can bluff his way through life, a character trait that leads him to concoct an elaborate plan to raise funds by pass for the embodiment of selfless altruism in the hope that his social status will be revived.
But his plan to clear his debt – involving a found purse and worthless gold coins – quickly escalates into a series of ethical dilemmas in which the cumulative effect of his deception will make it harder for Rahim to find his way back to life. the good man. he sincerely believes he is. Like Farahdi’s Arthur Miller, The Salesman, A Hero is another tragedy of the common man, with Rahim’s flaw, his own naïve belief in his ability to outsmart a corrupt system in which honor has become a performative construct fueled through social media. Shot with Farahdi’s characteristic naturalism, it’s an uneasy but moving film, with a compelling performance by Jadidi.
Shot in one take, low budget British film Boiling point plunges us headlong into a chaotic night at a hip London restaurant run by a starred chef named Andy (a Stephen Graham lap of bravery) whose personal and professional life hangs by a thread. Avoiding the kind of outlandish shots of lovingly prepared food normally found in restaurant set films, the film remains focused on the tensions simmering among the staff as Andy’s misfires are quickly escalated by customers. difficult, disgruntled employees, a manager more interested in accommodating the whims of social media influencers, and Andy’s own shout-first/apologize-later leadership style.
While it’s easy to punch holes in the film for some of the more contrived plots, writer/director Philip Barantini deftly uses one-take conceit to heighten the pressure cooker atmosphere and he’s helped by an excellent ensemble cast who do a believable job of capturing the waifs-and-strays element of the restaurant business. But this is Graham’s film; his empathetic performance of a man falling apart as he confronts his own limitations is the glue that holds it all together.
The Tender Bar is available in limited release from December 17 and available on Amazon Prime from January 7; A Hero is in limited release starting January 7 and streaming on Amazon Prime starting January 21; Boiling Point is in theaters and on demand starting January 7.
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