Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5
USA, 2021. Amazon Studios, Big Indie Pictures, Smokehouse Pictures. Screenplay by William Monahan, based on the memoir by J.R. Moehringer. Cinematography by Martin Ruhe. Produced by George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Ted Hope. Music by Dara Taylor. Production Design by Kalina Ivanov. Costume Design by Jenny Eagan. Film Editing by Tanya M. Swerling.
George Clooney directs an adaptation of J.R. Moehringer’s memoir of growing up on Long Island in the seventies. JR’s almost prodigy-level smarts are not wasted on his relatives, for despite their hard-scrabble working-class station, his family is rife with intellectuals, his college-graduate grandfather (Christopher Lloyd), his self-taught book-loving uncle (Ben Affleck) and his ambitious mother (Lily Rabe), who is forced by money woes to move them back in with her parents but has every intention of making sure her son goes to an Ivy League school and becomes a lawyer.
The best section of the movie is the first half, a sort of PG GoodFellas in which little JR, played by a terrific Daniel Ranieri is supervised by his charming uncle (played with easy charisma by Affleck, in what may be his best performance yet) and the rowdy bunch of New Yawk types who populate his bar; sure, none of them seem like real tough guys and look more like they’re straight out of the road company of a Broadway musical, but that doesn’t make it any less fun to watch them interact with the gifted little tyke.
In the latter half, things get more serious as Tye Sheridan takes over the lead role, now approaching adulthood as he goes off to college, has his heart broken, faces the demons of his past involving his father (Max Martini) and finally pursues his dream of becoming a writer (which, as he is told, is a business that is moving towards the popularity of memoirs, conveniently enough).
Clooney doesn’t find the centre of the story anywhere in the narrative that he assembles, there’s never a point at which things reach a strong moment of realization that would really make the movie a deeply satisfying and unforgettable experience, but there is so much to enjoy here that it won’t be until it’s over that you even notice.
Golden Globe Award Nomination: Best Supporting Actor (Ben Affleck)
Screen Actors Guild Award Nomination: Best Supporting Actor (Ben Affleck)