A lot of big hitters in this movie. I wasn’t sure about it, but I gave it five minutes and watched to the end. It jumps between 1973 and 1986. Daniel Raneri (with very long eyelashes) plays J.R. Maguire, a kid returning to his grandad’s house in Long Island. Tye Sheridan plays an older J.R.
His mum, Dorothy Maguire (Lily Rabe) has a mattress attached to the roof of their car and all her worldly belongings. She’s going home, but carries with her a sense of failure. Her marriage to ‘The Voice’ (Max Martini) has broken down and he refuses to pay child support. Grandad (Christopher Lloyd) is grumpy and put out, his house is already filled to overflowing with his children and grandchildren. J.R’s mum is upset, but the young J.R. admits to love living in grandad’s house. It’s full of fun, mostly, in the figure of his Uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck).
Uncle Charlie Maguire gives him the sit-down talk most fathers baulk at. He tells him he should always have a car and a job and a girlfriend—and you never hit a woman—and a stash in your wallet where you put a little something away in case of emergencies. Uncle Charlie knows about these things, he runs a bar, The Dickens. Anyone that has watched Cheers will know that kind of bar, filled with interesting characters that offer monosyllabic advice that you could take or leave and where everybody is your friend.
Uncle Charlie also tells J.R. he’s been watching him, and he’ll never be much good at baseball or sport, in general. Perhaps he should think of being something else when he grows up. He asks if he has any ideas. At that age, my ideal job was being a bin man or playing for Celtic. People were always telling me I was shit at sport, but I never listened. I tried to prove them wrong until my knees got arthritic. J.R. has a singular vision. He wants to be a writer.
J.R. begins straight away. Uncle Charlie has a look at his work and tells him he has got talent. But he needs to read. Uncle Charlie has a cupboard filled with a stash of books for him to dig into. J.R. also needs to get lucky. Not the kind of geek luck that got him into college at Harvard, or even the job at The New York Times. Writers are supernatural being.
There’s a story-book romance with Sidney (Brianna Middleton). She continually dumps him. And there’s a kind of in-joke that fiction sells, but there’s a market for memoirs. And here we all are with J.R.Moehringer becoming an international bestselling author, with a film being made of his words.
For those of us that write (millions of book published, ironically, on Amazon every year) it would be nice to bask in this nostalgic afterglow of God-given success. Hopefully, my next novel, Beast, sells more than ten copies. Enough to buy a can of Coke. I’m a fan of fellow American writer, John Steinbeck (1902–1968) and he tells us two truths that make more sense to any aspiring writer:
‘You know how advice is. You only want it if it agrees with what you wanted to do anyway.’
Most importantly of all:
‘The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.’
I watched the film. Now I’m going to do things in the wrong order (it should always be book first) and read the book, The Tender Bar (2005). Read on.