George Clooney’s last directorial 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 formidable writer in real life (he has a Pulitzer Prize and New York Times and LA Times signatures), but you wouldn’t know. never in the way Clooney and screenwriter William Monahan (The Departed) describe his story.
Barely a scene happens when his absent alcoholic father is not pointed out as the source of all his psychological baggage; indeed, it gets to the point where it becomes a bit of a flashing joke, a way perhaps for Clooney to recognize how overused this all is in the hopes that we go with the flow. It would be easier, however, if he had created a better release movie instead of the one he’s trying here, filled with whistling grandfathers, harassed mothers, and a self-taught bar-owner uncle always ready with a bar stool philosophy to guide the young JR on his way.
This uncle is played by Ben Affleck, who demonstrated in last year’s heart-wrenching Finding His Way Home just how brilliant he can be playing blue-collar trapped by the circumstances. Here, however, he plays the movie star version of a working-class guy and although that reflects the way JR sees him, as the film goes 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) that relentlessly rosy point of view can’t help but creak.
Directed by two-Oscar winner Iranian author Asghar Farahadi, A hero opens with a newly paroled prisoner climbing an elaborate scaffolding system – a clever metaphor for the convoluted social structures that he will soon have to negotiate if he is to escape the financial turmoil that has landed him in jail. This is Rahim (Amir Jadidi), a somewhat charming man who still believes he can find his way in life, a character trait that leads him to concoct an elaborate plan to raise funds by himself. passing off as the embodiment of selfless altruism in the hope that his social status will be restored.
But his plan to write off 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. become the good man again. he sincerely believes himself. Like Farahdi’s Arthur Miller-inspired The Salesman, A Hero is another ordinary man’s tragedy, with Rahim failing his own naive belief in his ability to play a corrupt system in which honor has become a performative construct. powered by social media. Shot with the characteristic Farahdi naturalism, it is a smelly but moving film, with a fascinating performance by Jadidi.
Shot in One Take, British Low Budget Film Boiling point plunges us head first into a chaotic night in a hip London restaurant run by a Michelin-starred chef named Andy (a bravery trick from Stephen Graham) whose personal and professional life hangs by a thread. Avoiding the kind of extravagant lovingly prepared meal plans normally found in restaurant movies, the film focuses on simmering tensions among staff as Andy’s mistakes are quickly compounded by difficult customers, disgruntled employees, a manager more interested in accommodating the whims of social media influencers and Andy’s own leadership style, yell first / apologize later.
While it’s easy to find holes in the film for some of the more elaborate storylines, writer / director Philip Barantini deftly uses one-take vanity 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 stray element of the restaurant business. But this is Graham’s movie; his empathetic performance of a man who crumbles as he confronts his own limitations is the binding agent that holds everything together.
The Tender Bar is available in a limited edition from December 17th and available on Amazon Prime from January 7th; A Hero is in limited release starting January 7 and streaming on Amazon Prime from January 21; Boiling Point is in theaters and on demand starting January 7.
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