The Tender Bar (2021) - full transcript

A boy (Jr.) seeks a replacement for his father, who disappeared shortly after his birth, and bonds with his uncle Charlie and the patrons at a bar in Long Island. Uncle Charlie works as a bartender there and knows all of the staff and regular patrons. He is a charismatic individual and all of his friends are eager to initiate Jr. into their rituals. Jr. listens closely to the stories of these men and relies on these stories for guidance on how to live. - stop by if you're interested in the nutritional composition of food
There's your Golden Earring,

and they're gonna be opening
for The Who for three days

at Madison Square Garden, starting...

Is that Uncle Charlie?

I was trying to fucking help you pitch.

Help me pitch?

This is batting practice, okay?

It's not for you to help me pitch.

I'm worried about you.

All right, shut the fuck up.

All right, all right, all right. Ready?

Ah, this guy's got nothing.

You got nothing. Come on, Chaz.

- All right, here we go.
- Come on, come on, Goose.

Come on, get it by him. Get it by him.

I'll see you back at the house.

Ruthie's back there, too.

Be a full house.


- What are you gonna do?
- Come on, Chaz. Come on.

Come on.

We're going home.

We're going home. Again.

All right, here you go. Nice grip.

Here you go, kid.

Use your glove.

It was 1973,

and after failing
to pay our rent for five months,

my mom and I had to move
back home to my grandpa's house.

Home never meant the same thing
to my mother as it did to me.

To her, it meant failure,
the place you ended up

when all the things
she was counting on fell through.

Work, apartment, boyfriend,
not always in that order.

But I loved it.

To me, Grandpa's house was
a revolving door of cousins and aunts,

with a full complement
of laughter and tears

and an occasional nervous breakdown.

But above all,
it's where Uncle Charlie lived.

And when you're 11 years old,
you want an Uncle Charlie.

Everybody needs to know
the cesspool isn't taking it.

If you take a leak, take it outside.

I could use a little help in here.

I'm not the maid.

Jesus Christ!

My father was a radio DJ in New York.

They called him The Voice.

He played Top 40 hits,
and he'd talk about the musicians.

I only met him once,
and I was pretty young,

so when I could, I'd sneak away
and listen to him on the radio.

I had to sneak, 'cause after he left us,

well, let's just say Mom took a pair
of scissors to every picture he was in.

I like it.

Do you?

It's people. I like to have people.

Tomorrow is another day.

Why does Grandpa say
we should all clear out?

Because he's a selfish old prick
who resents taking care of his family.

Like Dad?

No, honey.

Grandpa resents taking care of his family.

Your father has never
taken care of anybody at all.



That's Pablo Cruise
with "Love Will Find a Way"...

Hey, now, eat your cereal.

Okay, two rules.

I'm never gonna let you win, ever.

You beat me,
you know you beat me fair and square,

but I never let you win.

And I'm gonna always tell you the truth.

I saw you in the yard playing sports.

You're not very good.

And... probably not gonna get
a whole lot better,

so it might be wise for you,
in order to avoid tears and disappointment

and, above all, delusion,

you know, find some other activities
that you like.

You know, like, uh,
what do you like to do the most?

I like to read.

I also like to read.

I mean, I'm good at sports, too, but...

So, this thing about the radio.

You're gonna look
for your father in the radio.

You think your father is in the radio.

He's not in the radio.

He's just an asshole
who happens to be on the radio.

Don't look for your father to save you.

And don't play sports.

That's all I have to say.

The game is five-card stud.

Mom can use some money.

This is The Voice at 97.1 on your dial.

She's really tired after work.

…top ten songs this week, you'll win a Q97

limited-edition brass belt buckle,

and you'll be registered to win $500.

What do you say? The top ten.

You can't win if you don't play.

Is this seat taken?


Tell your cousin

I said you can ride the fucking bike.

It's not his fucking bike anyway.

It's a house bike.
I took that bike out of the dump

and fixed it up
for all you little assholes.

Now they're moving to Colorado.

It's your bike anyway.

Oh, Jesus, mother of God.

How did you get sick?

I'm not sick.

It's Saturday morning.

This is the way it is.

This is Saturday morning
in the life of men.


Go around to the bar.
Get me a pack of cigarettes.

Get that before your grandmother does.

I'm-I'm not here. Whoever...

- Hello?
- Hey.

Now, I know there are a lot
of rug rats running around,

but I'm wondering if this is JR.


Huh? What?

That's right, buddy, if this is JR...

Give me the fucking phone.

- ...I'm your father.
- Mom's not here.

Well, I'm not calling
for your mother, kiddo.

I'm calling for you.

Hey, uh...

How would you like to see
a ball game with your old man?

- Really?
- Sure. Ball game with your old man.

Mets or Yankees?

Whatever you like.

Uncle Charlie says
the Yankees are assholes,

but the Mets drink at The Dickens.

How is your Uncle Charlie?

How are you? He wants to know.

I'm still short 30 bucks.

Tell him the Mets play the Braves
tomorrow night.

Mets play the Braves tomorrow night.

Doesn't mean he's gonna show up.

Well, I will tell you what, sport.

I'll get a couple tickets.

And I will pick you up
at your grandfather's at 6:30.

Great. Thank you.

We got a lot
to catch up on, you and me.


- Bye, now.
- Bye.

You gonna get my cigarettes?


Are you reading this paper?

- Oh, no.
- Great.

I... I got an interview at Yale.

He said to be ready at 6:30.

I was ready at 4:30 so as not to fuck up.

You always remember fucking up,
so you don't want to.

The thing is, that day, I felt like I had.

That's the thing to remember about a kid.

The kid always thinks he fucked up.

I didn't know what he looked like.

I hadn't been to New York City
to see his face on billboards and buses.

I couldn't have picked him out of a crowd.

But I wondered if it was like
a thing you would always know,

as if you would always know
your father instantly.

It was possible.

A little while later,
after being arrested while on air

for nonpayment of child support,

The Voice fled the state.

It was about this same period
that he called up drunk

and said he put a contract
on my mother's life.

He also threatened to kidnap me,

but Uncle Charlie thought
this was a less serious threat,

as kidnapping comes with responsibilities.

We're the Two Musketeers, right?


Let me show you something, okay?

This is the male sciences, all right?

You get your drink.

That goes there.

Got your pack of butts, right?

That goes there.

See that? Look at...
look at this guy right there.

See how he's putting his money
in his pocket like that?

- Yeah.
- Never do that.

That's keeping your money like a drunk.

It's not correct.

Know what you also do?

You take care of your mother.

All right?

All right, give me a hand.

And you take care of,
if you have one, your woman.

If you drink, you keep your shit together.

If your shit's not together,
you don't drink.

Don't be like one of these assholes here
who acts like

it was Jesus who came down
and made him late for work

and spend all their money and throw back

Old Hammerhead with vanilla Coke
for 30 years.

You know what I'm saying?
It's about being a man.

Get your drink. You get your butts.

Don't carry your money like a drunk.
Oh, and, uh...

See this? This little compartment
in your wallet, right?

That's where you keep your stashies.

That's like a hundred bucks,
five, whatever,

depending on the economy.

Important thing is you never,
ever drink that money, right?

What else? Hold doors.

Be good to your mother.

Teach you how to change a tire,
jump a car.

You know, that's it.

Change a tire, jump a car, take care
of your mother, don't drink your stashies.

Oh, one more thing... very important.

Never under any circumstances hit a woman,

even if she stabs you with scissors.

Got it.

That's it. Male sciences. Right.

Can people read those books?

Can they read...

What are you, soft?

No, I mean, can I read them?

What's the name of this place?

The Dickens.

That's right.

Charles Dickens. You know who that is?

The owner?

Yes, you can read 'em.
You can read as many as you like.

Take 'em in the poker room. Read 'em all.

Fill yourself up.

And you know what might happen?

If you read enough books,
maybe, if you're lucky,

you could become a writer.

And that was it.

From that moment on,
I wanted to be a writer.


Ah. I didn't do that.

Your grandfather has
a photographic memory.

He knows Greek and Latin.

But here is this... the furniture is
held together with duct tape,

and he's doing this...
He's farting and saying he didn't do it,

saying "apricots" for no reason.

That's what he did with going to college.

And yet you all end up back here.

You are a stingy, crazy, old bastard.

You are not stingy with money.

Haven't got any.

You are stingy with love.

I didn't do that.

Girls become wives and mothers.
That was his point of view.

- You became one of them.
- Oh, shut up, you old turd!

Because he is stingy

with love and understanding,
that is why I have no education,

and that is why you...

I swear to God, I have no idea how...

You are going to Harvard or Yale.

I didn't do that.

You are going to Harvard or Yale.

Make up for your disappointments?

- Harvard or Yale.
- This from a woman

who earns 30 bucks a day.

And after college... at Harvard or Yale!

You are going to law school.

So you can sue your father
for child support.

No, so he can help you
with your fines about the septic tank.

Fregosi is the hitter
facing the right-hander Jenkins.

Infield playing in.

Here comes the pitch.

Fastball is in there for a strike,
and it's two and two.

What the fuck is this?

Hey, Charlie. How's it hanging?

Still got the clap, asshole?

You know I got it from your sister.

- Where's my 30 bucks?
- It's up my ass. Come get it.

JR, say hi to your father.

Jenkins sets, looks in and delivers.

Swing and a miss! Strike three.

And away we go.

You like living
at your grandfather's house?


I mean... no.

Yes or no?

I mean, I like it, but Mom doesn't.

Well, I think your grandfather
is a good man.

Marches to his own drummer,
but that's what I like about him.

Mom says he might have lost his mind.

Well, there's that, too.
Sometimes your own drummer is a bad idea.

It makes Mom sad having to keep
going to Grandpa's house.

She blame me?

See, the thing about women...

Sometimes they don't think about
the cause and effect of things.

They want freedom,

but then they blame you
for dispensing it once they get it.

At least that's my experience.

One swinging dick to another.
I'll give you that one.

Hey, your mom tells me you listen
to your old man on the radio a lot.

She says I listen too much
or try to find you.

You change stations a lot.

That's the management.

You want to be a disc jockey
when you grow up?

- I'm gonna be a lawyer.
- Jesus. Why?

Mom wants me to.

Talk a lot of shit and believe anything.

All right.

Good to see you, young man.

I got a barbecue meeting with a sponsor.

- Can I come?
- Nope.

Tell your mother not to spend that all
in one place.

As for you, keep listening to the radio.

See you soon, Junior.

A doctor at school says
I have no identity.


Get one.

I'll see you on the flip side.

See ya.

Hey, asshole.

Good day with the kid?

Fuck you, Charlie.

Give me my 30 bucks
or get the fuck out of the car.

Hey, don't be a fucking... You know what?

Don't be trying to be
a fucking tough guy, all right?

Why'd you marry him?

I was young.

I was dumb.

I don't want to be a junior.

I don't want to have the same name.

You can have any name you want.

Who was the guy
pitched a no-hitter on acid?

- Dock Ellis.
- You can take acid,

you can take fucking Drano.
You know what I'm saying?

But you commit. You make a decision.

You shit or wind your watch.

You fucking call it a day
or run for president, and that's it.

What do you need me to do?

- Mom can't go to something.
- Oh.

I mean, what can't she go to?

Where we going?

Sorry to make you wait.

How can I help?

Uh, well, I'm not sure.

Uh, someone said he was having,
uh, tantrums.

Maybe you said that.

His mother's a secretary.
She's busy. She's not here, so I came.

Maybe you can tell me
what this is all about.

The boy won't tell me
what his name stands for.

Doesn't stand for anything.
His name is JR.

Deal with it.

Maybe this is a weird time for me
to tell you that I'm not a psychologist.

Why do you say that?

Well, because I'm not a psychologist

and I'm sitting here with somebody
who actually is a psychologist

who maybe knows I'm not a psychologist.

What are you, fucking inert?

All right.

This is your thing?

Nothing is face value,
and you're the smartest guy in the room,

and you sit there looking for errors
in baseline perception.

Oh, yeah. We all have our jobs.

You have yours. Knock yourself out.

JR... those are his initials?

Or it's the contraction for "junior."

What fucking difference does it make?

Well, there's a very big difference
if it is being concealed from him

that he's a junior
because there is no senior in his life.

That may never
have occurred to him until you just

laid your line of bullshit
on the subject to him right to his face.

It is my belief that the uncertainty
about the meaning of his name

and the continual questions about it
have left him without identity.

Very impressive.
No identity, hence identity crisis.

He has no identity, which causes rage.

He has dubiety
about his identity, possibly.

How sure are you about your identity? Hmm?

I'm curious because
you seem very interested

in his father and his absence,

and you cast it
in this very negative light

and bring the kid in here
and you're traumatizing him.

We both know you're calling his mother up
and asking her out on dates.

Um, that's...

So you're willing to traumatize
a little kid

in order to hit on his mother?

Uncle Charlie never had
the money to go to college.

He was self-taught.

But that didn't mean some dime-store
fifth-grade shrink could go toe to toe.

The Family Gazette.

This is great, JR.


Here it is.

Lose the drawings. Just get rid of 'em.

I know a lot of guys
that think they're writers,

and you'll find in life
that most of them are not.

Here's the thing.

You got to have "it."

I don't know what it is,
but if you don't have it immediately... never get it.

And I say you got it.

Oh. I knew it.

Oh, I knew it! I knew it.

There's-there's... there's something.

Calm down. I didn't say you were good.

I said, you know, you could be.

Come here. Come with me.

Now, what you do is you read all of those.

Now, I don't want to talk to you
unless you read all those.

I also don't want to talk to you
about all those.

So, Yale interview?


Your mother must be thrilled.

Yeah, you know, it's all she ever wanted.

In my official capacity,
I have to say, is the only thing

to concentrate on in this world

is the desire to see
the face of God the Father.


However, the Church is on her last legs.

Three people come to my mass.

I had four, but Mrs. Cafferty took a fall

because she didn't have a good son.

Be a good son.

That's why I'm going to the interview.

Now, tell me, when was the last time
you made a good confession?

Not in my Yale essay.

Well, you want to get in.


Hey. Whose kid is that?

My sister's.

Which sister?
The hot one or the crazy one?

What, are you fucking stupid?
You want to die?

Hey, get that kid a drink on me.

Oh, you're backed up on Bobo.

You know, I got a feeling that, uh,
you had a reason to come down here.

You didn't just come down here
to come here.

Maybe you forgot.

Grandpa needs a pack of Old Golds.

Never keep somebody away
from their cigarettes.

Poor old guy's probably
climbing the walls.

Well, you know he's gonna be back in here
saying weird shit. Here you go.

I want to back up Bobo.

With your grandfather's money?


All right.

- Bobo, you're backed up on the kid.
- This kid's all right.

Today, we're gonna take a break
from our studies,

and we're gonna make invitations.

Handmade invitations for
the father-and-son breakfast.

All right, so you're gonna make
your own invitations.

You're gonna bring 'em home
to your fathers after school.

Saturday morning,
we're gonna cook them breakfast,

and you're gonna read to them
from your schoolwork,

so everybody gets to know
each other better.

All right, and I want you to do things
that you do with your dad, all right?

Who needs a scissor? Who needs,
like, a colored pencil or something?

Hold on a sec. Let me get those.

All right? Got that?

All right, guys,
put invitations on my desk.

Thank you, Michael, Stephen.

Adam, excellent.

I love that.

All right.

What is it, JR?

I don't have a father.

Oh. Did he pass on?

I don't know. Maybe.

I just don't have one.

"Passing on" means dead.

Oh. No, he's not dead.

He's on the radio.

Can I just not come to the breakfast?

You know what, I'm gonna call your mother.

- Okay.
- Okay.

Don't they know
the way the world is today?

It's hard to tell people
about your father, JR, because...

it's hard to know where to begin.

Maybe the police can make him go?

Police can't make him pay support.

A father-son breakfast might be tough.

Well, why don't you take him,
you son of a bitch?


Why not? Why not?

Oh, you're gonna take him?

You two look so handsome.

I remember you.

Let's go, before I change my mind.

You have fun.

Take it easy, kid.

Oh, here we go.

Our educational system, and indeed

our society as a whole,

was destroyed in the 19th century
by the German influence.


Ability as a concept, turned into
a mechanical, empirical construct.

You may be a beneficiary of this system.

Regardless of the system in place,

he's the likeliest to be able
to leave my house

on his own abilities. Hmm?

Thank you for taking me.


Don't tell anybody I'm a good grandfather.

Everybody will want one.

Your mother has a tumor on her thyroid

and is going to have it out.

It might be malignant, hmm?

Be nice to her.


The biopsy proved
the tumor was malignant,

so they cut it out,
along with her thyroid.

No chemo, no radiation.

They just cut it out,
and the cancer was gone.

Sounds easier than it was.

Nothing in my mom's life came easy.

Do you want some water?

I want you to succeed.

What if I can't?

As God is my witness,

you are going to Yale.

It's gonna cost $11,000.

Yeah? Who says?


You mind if your mama believes in you?


Something's wrong with my brain today.

Wordy Gurdy has me stumped.

What's Wordy Gurdy?

It's a puzzle.

They give you this half-assed clue,
and the answers rhyme.

Like, uh... "Jane's vehicles"

is, you know, "Fonda's Hondas."

Life's hard enough without puzzles.

Do puzzles, you don't get Alzheimer's.

This one's bullshit.
"Richard's ingredients"?

Who's Richard? Nixon?

"Nixon's fixin's."

- "Terrific Gary."
- "Super Cooper."

Oh, that's it... kid's earned his stripes.

- This kid's a prodigy.
- Gonna have to cut cards

to see who loses their spot
in the bowling league.

He's a prodigy, that kid.

Where'd you learn that word?

All right, one more.

- Who else is coming?
- Pat.

- Who's he?
- She.

Your uncle's girlfriend.

Ah, we all make mistakes.

- Where do you think you're going?
- It's fucking Wednesday!

I go fucking bowling
every fucking Wednesday! Fuck you!

Fuck you, you stupid son of a bitch.
Fuck you!

Fuck you! Learn how to fucking drive,
you twat.

Fuck you!

- Bitch.
- I see things are going well.


You must be young JR.

What are you doing
hanging out with these bums?

I get to go bowling
'cause I did the Wordy Gurdy.

Aw, you must be the apple
of your mother's eye.

I hope so, 'cause she's sad.

Okay, that's enough.

I don't know,
my feet are getting bigger, apparently.

Size 12?

Hey, Bobo, get me a size 13, will you?

How's your mom doing with the cancer?

You kidding me?

A, it's in remission.

Three, shut the fuck up.

I'm sorry. You don't have to be
such a dick about it.

I got you, uh, something.

I was gonna hold on to it for a minute,
but I'll give it to you now.

Here you go.

Turn it over.

That's Tom Seaver's autograph right there.

- Thank you.
- Mm-hmm.

Listen to me. Your mom is gonna be okay.

You understand?

I promise.

You're not gonna see, uh,
Pat again, all right?

She wasn't that bad.

Well, it's kind of a last straw
kind of thing, you know?

Not exactly
the first inkblot on her ledger.

You got to be able to do without people,
and they got to know it.

It's either all in or nothing.

Know what I mean?

Go get a ball.


- Oh!
- Oh!

"Laconic. Edict. Admonish.

Platitude. Duplicity. Sanctimonious."

Provisional. Strident.

Bucolic. Fulcrum. Inimical.


Minion. Eclectic.

Geez, Mom.

- What? It's okay. I don't have lipstick.
- I mean...

I won't get in.

Yes, you will.

Uncle Charlie says to go all in.

Yeah, well, your uncle is
talking about gambling,

and that's why he lives at home.

Yeah, but isn't this gambling?

It's better than not gambling.

I never gambled. That was my problem.

What about Dad?

All right.

Oh, my God.

Oh, God.

Oh, God.

Oh, Jesus Christ.

- Open it.
- I want to open it alone.

- Just open it.
- Ma, you open it.

- No.
- That's a call right there.

She's the one with the most invested.

I told her not a dime.

You don't have a fucking dime.

his mother doesn't have a nickel.

JR, open it!

- I can't open it. I can't open it.
- Just open it.

It's not gonna fucking kill anybody.

I am. I am gonna die.

Oh, for fuck's sake. Give it to me.

No, let JR open it.

Uncle Charlie's a gambler.

- Just let him...
- I paid the application fee.

"Dear Mr. Maguire..."


"It is a great pleasure to inform you

"that the Admissions Committee
has voted to offer you a place

in the Yale class of 1986."


"I'm also pleased to notify you
that your financial need has been met."

- If you're tricking me, I'll kill you.
- Read it.

What about Human Learning and Memory?

Always take philosophy, okay?

You always do well in that class,
'cause there's no right answer.

Your mother's gonna come to you
and try to give you money.

Don't accept it.

I'll take care of you.


Talk to your father?



I'll come home a lot.

Yeah, this isn't home.

- Yeah, it is.
- No.

No, it's not.

Okay, go.

Go. Go, go, go, go.


- How's it going?
- Hey.

- Hi.
- Hey.

- Hey, I'm Jimmy.
- JR.

Oh. Well, what does JR stand for?

- Jackie Robinson.
- Really?

Nah, it's "Junior."

I was expecting a kind of
Brideshead Revisited thing.

This is bullshit.

- This taken?
- JR and JIMMY: No.

- I'm Wesley.
- I'm Jimmy.

Jimmy? Jim's good.

- JR.
- JR. What does that stand for?

- Jackie Robinson.
- No shit.

No, it's "Junior."

All right.

Junior, JR.

Jimmy, Jim.

It's our first night at Yale.

- Yeah.
- Yeah.

Let's get fucked-up.

You will be making the acquaintance

of Satan.

Not in your own worst impulses

or among your friends...

Though you will, in each case...

But in Paradise Lost.

For the time being, in this class,
though I beat against barbarous current,

I still teach Western literature,

in which everything derives
from two epic poems,

the Iliad and the Odyssey,

handily contained for you in one book,

edited and translated by me.

The Iliad and the Odyssey
are the two seedlings,

the "poyims" 3,000 years old...

What's a "poyim"?

Somebody who's not Jewish.

The Iliad and the Odyssey are universal.

They are stories about going home.

You will start by reading half the Iliad

and write me a ten-page paper.

Any questions? Yes.

Uh, a paper on what?

The first half of the Iliad.

No, right, but on what subject?

The first half of the Iliad.

He's throwing down.

Now, as some of you hopefully may know,

the Iliad is an ancient Greek epic poem
in dactylic hexameter...

- Hey.
- Hmm?

- Who is that?
- Who?

In the purple.

- Ah. She goes out with Stinky.
- Stinky?

Yeah, he's wealthy.

...grand style
of Western classical poetry.

So take note of these
and other examples of its use

as you make your way through the text.

Ovid's Metamorphos...

Because everything I see is unattainable.

That's because you're probably
being a pussy.

Well, if you're made to read
the greatest things ever written,

that you couldn't do,
and make you feel like shit,

then how are you supposed
to become a writer?

Socrates says you learn more
from a bad book than a good one.

Aristotle. I think.

If you go to Yale
but you don't have any balls,

how are you supposed
to be a student at Yale?

I'm just here on a lucky break.
It's just a lucky break.

I mean, I can do Wordy Gurdy all day long,

but I cannot figure out what the fuck
they are saying in Henry V.

We're all here on a lucky break,

I'm Lucky Sperm Club, and no one's
ever noticed that I'm an idiot.

It's also luck. Everybody's lucky.

Everybody alive is lucky

and were descended from the lucky.

Our ancestors were all either fast, smart

or had really fucking good immune systems.

Luck, asshole... it's why we're all here.

Hmm. I never thought about it like that.

You see, you're believing
in society's bullshit interpretation

of you and everything else,
and that is why you can't write.

Not because Homer
makes you think you suck.

I'd really like for you
to meet my Uncle Charlie.

What's he do?

He runs a bar.

I would really like to meet
your Uncle Charlie.

You got your I.D.'s, right?

Hey! The fuck are you guys doing here?

Jesus Christ.

What about these rejects?

Hmm. Okay.

Well, welcome to our shores, Jim.

Hey, I got an announcement.


according to the laws
of the sovereign state of New York,

today, my nephew is officially a man.

And so are his friends legally men.

- The law is fucked!
- Get these assholes a drink on me.

Fuck you. First one is mine.


Then you guys are backed up on Joey D.

- What do you want?
- Wow. Uh...

Well, I don't even know what to have.

I think a Yale man
should drink gin myself,

but... big decision, Chief.

Whatever you assholes choose now
is what I'm gonna pour

every time you walk in the door... forever.

But you got to have a drink... your drink.

Gin makes me crazy.

We can handle that.
We can handle anything.

I make an excellent gin martini.

The secret is a few drops of Scotch.

Come on, Chaz, back 'em up on me.

Back 'em up on me, too, Charlie.

Goodness. Evidently, tonight, you guys
are backed up on Chief and Joey D.

Fasten your fucking seat belt.

So you went to war?

'Nam, Second Division.

Quang Tri, '67 to '69.

You little fuckers
will never know such things.

All props to the 82nd, but your little
fucking airdrop on Grenada is not a war.

- We didn't airdrop on Grenada.
- How long were you in the Army?

One year, seven months, five days.

How long were you in Vietnam?

11 months, 12 days.

Chaz says you're insecure at Yale.

Nah. No.

Well, hey, it's the same as prison.

Anywhere is the same as prison.

You need to find the main guy,
who's a problem,

and you rip his fucking lungs out.

The fuck you telling the kid that for?

- That's it.
- He's going to Yale, not Rahway.

You know, Uncle Charlie is, like,
your old man, basically.

No, he's my Uncle Charlie.

My old man's in a radio.

Your old man's in a radio?

What are you reading this weekend?


Oh, Jesus Christ.

What? Thomas Aquinas.

Needed to believe there was a God,
so he offered the world concrete proof.

If you didn't believe his concrete proof,
the Church would cut your nuts off.

- What are you worried about?
- I don't wanna.

You don't wanna.

This is when you push.

Right now.

This is when you bet it all.

When you got nothing.

All right, fuck this.

Read Orwell
on the lower-upper-middle classes.

They're the ones who really suck.

Once you understand that,
you can operate in America.

If you also have a car.

Spent all of last summer in Europe.

Italy. Jesus, Venice.
You ever been to Venice?


Most illogical city
I have ever seen in my life.

The cab is a boat.
The garbage truck is a boat.

Not one bit of it makes any sense.

So how'd you end up in Venice?

Studied hard. I got good grades.

My old man said, "Pick a city."

So, my brother used to make me go with him

and watch Don't Look Now
with Donald Sutherland.

Jesus. How old were you?

That movie made a man out of me.

But it took place in Venice.

First movie was The Exorcist.

My brother had a hard-on
for Julie Christie.

Anyway, long story short, I picked Venice.

Three weeks turns into three months.

And The Exorcist scared the fuck
out of me, by the way.

- The moral of the story is...
- Right, right. The moral of the story is

do well in school,
and you get to see Italy.



- Hi.
- How are you? Uh, is Stinky in there?

I don't know where Alex is.

I don't see much of him.

Hey. JR.

- Sidney.
- Hey.

You're in my class.

I doubt it.

So, uh, how's your Iliad?


- My Iliad's fine.
- Yeah?

Yeah. How's yours?

My Iliad is just getting better and better
as the evening progresses.

- Is that so?
- Yeah.

How-how was the party?

Um, not great.

- No?
- No.

Where you headed?

Walking home.

I'll walk you.


So, what does JR stand for?

It's a complicated thing.

I'll tell you when I know you better.

Is there trauma?



I'm named after my father.

But I've only seen him a couple of times.

He was always on the radio, in New York.

He was Johnny Ace
or Johnny Michaels on the radio.

Are you in search for your father?

No, I'm not.

If you have a father complex,
it's kind of a red flag.

Women with father complexes
tend to eat a lot,

but men get really fucked-up.

I don't have a father complex.

He's just a guy on the radio.

That's a relief.

So, what do you want to be, JR?

Other than an emotional mess.

- Oh. Other than that?
- Mm-hmm.

I want to be a writer.

I'm going to be a writer.

Why a writer?

Ever since I was a kid, I've just...

I love to read everything
I could get my hands on.

Every great writer, every great book.

I got into Yale to be a lawyer.

You don't look like a lawyer.

I'll take that as a compliment.

You do that.

This is me.

You want to study together tomorrow?



Good night, JR.

Good night.

So you think you're in love?

Yeah. I think I'm in love.

She's a lucky girl.

I don't know about that.

- You being careful?
- Jesus, Mom. Fuck.

She's clever. She's perceptive.

Perceptive about what?

Never mind.

What, she's rich?

Probably lower-upper-middle class.

- That's my boy.
- I don't know what that means.


It means the people
who think they're rich.

The actual rich, you never see.

They hide so people won't kill them.

I mean, I just feel like
Sidney's so up here

and I'm so down here.

No, you have so much to offer her.

No money, no idea what it is I want to do.

Besides being a lawyer
and suing my father.

What? That's not why
I want you to be a lawyer.

That would be pathological, JR.

It's not the worst thing if the man
puts the woman on a slight pedestal.

Very slight.

Falling in love is a blessing.
Try to enjoy it.

If you get your heart broken, you'll live.

Ma, I have to ask you something.


I need to go to Sidney's for Christmas.

- What?
- What?

It's Christmas in Connecticut,
with a Volvo.

I'm never gonna train you out of it, am I?

Train me out of what?

Thinking things are more
than what they are.

- You ever been to Westport?
- No.

You ever fucked in a Volvo?

There wasn't a thing
Sidney wouldn't do or try.

She taught me about love,

and that semester just flew by
for both of us.

I wasn't naive.

I knew that my first great love
probably wouldn't be my last.

But there was something about her,
something different,

something that gave me hope.

You okay?

- Need a doctor?
- No.

- I just need a minute.
- Okay.

Morning, sport.


So, my parents...

They already heard you.


They want to meet you.

I think I should take you to the train.


It's very complicated.

I'm feeling weird.

I'm sorry I brought you for Christmas.

I think I'm seeing someone else.

I'll see you downstairs.

Do you like scones, JR?

Oh, I love scones, sir.

- Call me Phil.
- Thanks, Phil.

Since you can call him Phil,
I suppose you can call me Mrs. Lawson.


Well, Sidney tells me... Excuse me.

So, Sidney...

Sidney tells me you're both architects.

Some people build houses.
We build dwellings.

What's the difference except the word?

I mean, I just failed an English exam,
but a house is a dwelling

unless it's a cave,
and a dwelling is a house...

They also run the magazine Dwellings.


The magazine called Dwellings.


I don't think you should dwell on it.


I understand you have an absconded father

who's nothing more to you
than a voice on the radio.

Yeah, pretty much.

Are you in psychotherapy?
I should think you would be.

No psychotherapy, no.


What does your mother do, JR?

She dwells in Manhasset,

in a house with her parents,
who are both kind of nuts.

And she's a secretary.

And one of the things she always
loved to do was ride around

looking at houses like this one

and wonder what life must be like in them.

Now I can tell her.

Please do.

I will.

What do you study?

You know, Phil, I study people.

I think I've always studied people.

And this is great.

JR is a writer.

I mean, what do you study at Yale?

Usual fucking bullshit.
My mother wants me to be a lawyer.

She sounds like a very intelligent woman,
if a trifle optimistic.

Phil, you ever fucked in a Volvo?

And that was it... dumped in Connecticut.

I'd spend the next two years just focusing
on making something of myself.

Being somebody.

Somebody Sidney would want back.

- Hey.
- Hi.


This seat taken?

Look who it is. Sit down there.

My senior year was gonna be epic.

Writing for the paper, working at the bar.

This was gonna be my year.

I didn't need Sidney.

In fact, fuck Sidney.

Are you any good at writing?

I fear that sometimes
the question is too little asked.

I don't know.

I have stuff in the Yale paper.

A lot of people don't.

Lot of people do.

I always love to see you on this train.

What's your main trouble?

I'm just a poor boy who wants a rich girl.

That's been done.

She's not really rich.

She's lower-upper-middle.

Well, you never see the real rich.
They're invisible.

Do you have plans in your head
to make something of yourself,

go and sweep her away?


If she loved you, she'd take you poor.

Heard it here first.

I've heard it from someone else.

Also, the Gatsby thing, you know?

Well, what's your main theme?
Since it isn't really that one.

The absent father. You know that one?

Sure, how else do you think
people become priests?

You know, you really had me going.

About what?

Well, for the past year...
Year and a half, frankly...

It's... my life's been hell.

About me?

Yes, about you.

What do you want from me?

Well, we're seniors.

I'm getting agita.

Is agita the root of agitation?

No. Men who want things are.

You know, I think you think
I want something that I'm not thinking.

Unless you want me to think it.

I'm seeing someone.

You got to be fucking kidding me.

I can't explain it, really,
why I kept going back.

She just had my number.

All right,
so she gets agita, whatever that is.

It's Yiddish for "nerves."

All right, so she gets that
and she needs her space

and her time and all that, right?

So I have a question for you.

What do you need?

Look, I'm not a genius.
It's an obvious question.

What do I want?
I want to be a writer, but I suck.

Well, when you suck at writing,
that's when you become a journalist.

I'm not going to law school.

Neither am I.

- My mom, she...
- Your mom wants you happy.

Yeah, she does.

Neither of us know how.

Let's go back and get graduated.

All right.

- I'm here. I understand it's a big deal.
- Do you?

- Yeah.
- He graduated from Yale.

Your father graduated from Dartmouth.

So, without further ado,
let's bring them in.

Ladies and gentlemen,
let's give a warm welcome

to the Yale class of 1986.

There's a call for you.


Remember me?

Hey, Dad.

I-I-I didn't make it, as you know.

Uh, no... no surprise there.

Uh, but I did want to tell you that, uh...

I quit drinking.

And, uh, I've been here and there...


and... you made the list.

- Wow.
- Oh, come on. Don't fuck with me.

Hey, I'm glad you made it.

Uh, I was worried.

College ain't for everybody.

It was for Mom, but you got her pregnant.

Yes, well, we all have to paddle
our own canoe, JR.

Seems like your mother's got you
paddling hers a little bit.

I think she's been paddling both of ours
for a very long time.


Uh, all right, well, I'm on the air
in 15 and change.

I got to go.

Where are you?

What law schools are you looking at?


I'm gonna be a novelist.

Where you gonna live?

At Grandpa's, like everybody.

We all go to Grandpa's.

I mean, I-I know you think this is
supposed to change everything, but...

You have to have a job.

I will have a job... writing a novel.

Publishing is going more towards memoir.

That's true.


Is this for Sidney?


Open it.

It's a Yale ring.

I don't like male jewelry, but I thought,

since the Musketeers
actually did this together...

It's for you.

Jesus, fuck.

you just married your mother.

- Whoa. Take it easy.
- All right, all right, all right.

So let's say... let's say you closed
the circle with one parent, right?

- Yeah. Yeah.
- Maybe.

What about The Voice?

- I don't even know where he is.
- The Voice...

locked in a downward spiral
since the Carter administration.

So both you assholes just graduated?

Charlie, back 'em up on me.

- Aw.
- Thanks, Chief.

So, how much do they get
for a Yale education these days?

Oh, it's 60 grand.

- 60?
- JR got grants and scholarships.

Wesley, you were a full-ticket guy?

All right, answer me this.

What year... was the Magna Carta signed?

- I don't know.
- I don't fucking know.

- Survey says...
- 1215.

It's the foundation of English law.
You should know it.

- Bulwark against tyranny.
- King John.

- That's right.
- At this point, Chief,

- I don't give a shit.
- He doesn't give a shit.

Kid, I'm just trying to keep you
out of the ruling classes. That's all.

Too late, Chief. Too late.

$60,000. My house cost $12,000.

- Your house cost $7,000.
- My house cost $7,000.

I was kind of into
the "clean break" idea.

We can be friends.

Just not romantic or sexual.

That sounds appealing.

So, what are you doing?

I'm at the bar a lot.

I'm working on my novel.

Publishing is heading towards memoir.

People have been saying that. Yeah.

So, how many pages do you have?


Have you applied to newspapers?

- Yeah. Yeah.
- You have clips?

You contacted The New York Times?

Would you like it if I was at The Times?

I love you anyway.

I just don't want a relationship.

But you have a relationship.

It's just not romantic or sexual.

I think The Times is probably
out of my league.

Was Yale out of your league?

- Can we just go to your place?
- No.

I live with him.

So, Sidney saw you
in your reduced condition.

- But she was checking up on you.
- Yeah.

She was trying to see if you had
your shit together.


I don't even have any shit
to get together.

- I don't. I don't have anything.
- Hey. Hey, hey, listen.

What did I tell you
about the male sciences?

- Remember that?
- Yeah.

- Right? Have a job.
- Right.

- Have a car.
- Yeah.

- Put all your shit in it.
- I don't have any of that.

So you can be independent,
and then somebody might want you.

And if they don't,
you get the fuck out of there.


New York Times.

Yes. Can I tell him who's calling?

Take care.

New York Times.

- Hi. Are you JR?
- Yes.

Yeah, you can come with me.

We all like your clips from New Haven.

Where are you working now?

I'm writing fiction, I think.

And I work at a family business.

It's a hospitality business.

A bar on Long Island.

- Your clips are good, Mr. Maguire.
- They are?

The editors feel they need to see more
before they make a decision.

You want to see more?


Is that good?


I don't have more.

Let me tell Brian that.

Do you want to meet Brian?

Not if I don't have a job.

Why don't you come and meet him?

JR, come in.

Hi, sir.

So do not write to her

and tell her that you've
improved your position,

because that will take away
all the power and the majesty

of her finding this out for herself.

I already did.

Can you fucking come to me
with this shit, please?

Do not tell her you want her back.
Did you say that?

Uh, yeah.

Did you go and...

stare up at the building,
like, in the rain and shit?



JR, this girl has abandoned you
how many times?

If someone abandons you,
what does that tell you?

You, of all people.

She just needs time, you know?

Yeah, I think you're missing
a central fact,

which is that women decide
if they want something or if they don't,

and it becomes very obvious very fast.

- But...
- Women decide.

- I know, but...
- When you met, who decided?

- She did.
- There you go, numb nuts.

Standard pattern, obvious to all.

You do see a pattern, right?


JR got a job at The Times.

I'm a... I'm a copyboy.

- You're a copyboy?
- I-I get sandwiches. I...

Hey, Charlie, back him up on me.

So, your first byline
presents a, uh, problem.

Uh, i-initials cannot be used
without periods.

I've done some research,

and Harry S Truman
did not use a dot after his...

They're not called dots.

EE Cummings... uh, no, uh, periods.

And The Times uses them anyway.

And do you know why?

'Cause it looks like we forgot.

Times style is Times style,
and you are J-period R-period Maguire.


There's no periods after a last name.

My congratulations on your fine work.

You got a byline in The New York Times.

Anything else?

Oh. No, thank you.

Dad owns the firm.

Brothers are partners.

Sooner or later, it's gonna...

- Lucky Sperm Club.
- Lucky Sperm Club.

- Exactly. Yes.
- Here you go.

Thank you.

So you got promoted?

Oh, no, I'm promoted
when I become a full-fledged reporter

and when my byline appears every day.

And you still won't have the background
Sidney's looking for

and you'll be mainly blossoming
as a barfly.

- Uh-huh, well...
- Ah, you know, genetics is tough.

What are you gonna do?

Incidentally, where is the old man?

- Uh, somewhere south.
- Mm.

You know, you're becoming
like your mother about Yale.

Oh, yeah?

Yeah, you think The Times means something.

Yeah, because it does.
It's The New York fucking Times.

- No, no, it doesn't.
- Well, what does mean something?

A book. With a book, you'll go years

before you realize that
that doesn't mean anything, either.

And I'm telling you, JR, I promise you,
whether you write at The Times,

whether you write this book,

Sidney will still never call you
out of the blue to get you back.

- Okay, and do you know why?
- Why?

Why won't Sidney ever call me,
genius who knows everything?

Because she's dumped you like nine times.

Because she doesn't love you, man.

Because she's getting married
on Memorial Day.

In retrospect, what you do next
is gonna be important.

You gentlemen ready to order?

Four gin martinis, up with a twist.

Wake the fuck up.

I thought you were gonna be a writer.

I am.

No, you're not. You're a copyboy.

- I write.
- A book?

- No.
- So you're just a fuckup.

- I'm not a fuckup.
- Yeah, you are.

And you come from a long line of fuckups.

That's true.

You want to know what I think?

Probably not.

I think you should go back to sleep,
wake up in 20 years,

tell everybody how good you could've been.

That's what I think.

- Fuck you.
- Fuck you...


Hey. He's looking for you.

This is it.

Lucky bastard.

As you know,
the editors have had a chance

to carefully review your work,
and, um, it's terrific.

Truly, some of your pieces
have been outstanding.

Though most of them are about, uh,
people in bars on Long Island, uh...

Uh, some of your pieces have been
truly, truly outstanding.

Um, that's why I wish I had better news.

Um, as you know, um,

when the committee meets
to consider a trainee,

some editors voice support, some do not.

A vote's taken... and, um,
I can't tell you who voted how or why...

But, um, the end result is

I cannot offer you
a position as a reporter.

Thank you.

The feeling is that you lack,
uh, experience, you know?

Smaller newspaper, perhaps, you know?

Some place where you can, uh,
learn and grow.

No. Thank you.

It's your mom.


Don't look at me like that.

They said it was minor.

Let me tell you something.

It may be possible to kill me,

but it is not easy.

Okay. You sure you're all right?

Yeah, I'm fine.

Good. Be out of here in a few days.

What's going on? What's up?


Well, they didn't offer me that position.

Pure gold.

All those assholes are now characters.

Yeah, I guess so.

This incident itself is dramatic.

You can inflate this.

Yeah. Okay.

No, I think so.

Maybe... maybe this is the point where

you tell me something really important.


I... To be honest, I'm not 100% sure
we should go memoir.

But we have to be conscious
of the trend, right?

However, if it is a memoir,

and if it's gonna have any structure... know what you have to do.

He's in North Carolina doing a talk show.

Your father came to Manhasset once...

Seeking rapprochements with your mother.

Came on the train... didn't have a car.

Can't have any kind
of fucking rapprochements

with any kind of chick
if you don't have a fucking car.

You know this.

You've told me, yes,
and the stashies in your wallet...

Maybe in the future of transportation

or in Holland or whatever,
things are different,

but in America, have a car.


Anyway, your mother
already told him to fuck off.

He shows up.

Comes into the bar.

Orders a well Scotch neat.

Never order a well Scotch.

Never order it neat.

It's a signal
that you're reaching the end.

And in his case, this was 20 years ago.

And then I loaned the guy
30 bucks, which...

I have yet to see since.

And over all these years,

all I really remember about him
is that fucking voice.

I mean, the set of pipes.

Uh, as I get older...

I wonder,

you know, like...

what was the fucking problem?

I mean...


Do I remind you of him?

Lighten up on your drinking.

He was right, of course.

First thing he did when he got out
of the hospital was light a cigarette.

What's that line about old dogs
and new tricks?

Speaking of old dogs...

It was time.

Oh, come here and give your old man a hug.

Thanks for making the trip.


So, uh, I don't know
if I told you on the phone, but, um...

I'm allowing myself a cocktail
from time to time.

- I thought you were...
- You-you want one?

- Hey, Johnny.
- Hey.

- What can I get for you?
- Um...

Double Scotch, whatever the well is,

uh, rocks, splash of water, no fruit.

No fruit. Okay.

- And for you?
- I'm fine.

Oh, come on, don't fuck with me.

- He's gonna have what I'm having.
- You got it.

I make the rules.

Unless you can take me.

You want to take me on?

For being a shitty father,
I'll give you the first shot.

I think I'm okay.


I'm letting myself have a cocktail
from time to time.

I don't think I told you over the phone

that I was letting myself have a cocktail
from time to time, huh?

See, I realized that, um,
I'm not an alcoholic, so...


It's all good.

You know, when the mood strikes me,

I can enjoy a cocktail.

And you can enjoy a cocktail
with your old man.

Here we go.

Thank you.

Okay, so what are you doing?

I'm a writer.

I have a job at The Times.

And, uh, how's your mother?

She's good.


We're gonna go, uh, have dinner.

At Kathy's.

She's the new poontang.


Let's go.


Well, I see y'all started
the party without me.

The party started
a long time before I met you.

This is my son, JR.

What's the JR stand for?


Very pleased to meet you, JR.

Nice to meet you.

What's for supper?

I cooked a chicken,
got some vegetables.

What time do you want to eat?

Well, we're hungry now.

What about that one?


- That is... Right here?
- Yeah, one... the piece has to go here.

- This piece has to go here.
- Nice.

What do you do with these
after you're done?

Mama shellacs 'em and puts 'em up.

- That's Venice.
- I know.

Have you ever been there?

Not yet.

How do you get to go places?


Do well in school.

Do very well in school.

That's the first thing I had to do.

And sometimes that's all there is.

I'm good at school.

Yeah, if-if you do very well in school... one...

Bet you write like nuns fuck.

Where's this fucking chicken?

Don't need any of
your mood swings after the day I had.

What kind of fucking day
could you possibly have had?

You out sucking cock
to pay for your goddamn chicken?

You know what, don't touch me!


Goddamn, you look like you had
some kind of a breakthrough.

Like everything is...

...falling into place.

- Shut the fuck up.
- What did you say to me?

I said shut the fuck up!

You can't shut me up.

I'm a broadcast professional.

You weren't trying to shut me up

when you were looking for me
on the radio dial.

Fuck you.

Man, you can't shut your daddy up.

What are you gonna do
without the bad guy in your life?

You're set.

They'll all say that
you never had a chance.

Where's your phone?

Sorry about your father.

He's not my father.

You don't get to pick.


Hi, honey.

You're not gonna believe it.

I got a great job.

Your aunt, of all people, came through.

It's in Westhampton. I got a desk.

- Check the top?
- Yeah.

They give you a book with a list
of phone numbers and addresses,

and I talk to them about canceling
their whole life and getting term,

putting the rest into an IRA
that builds tax-free.

- How do I look?
- You look fantastic.

Oh, God.

I am gonna be late!

They pay you a base salary, and then
you get a percentage of what you sell.

There's some lasagne in the fridge.

Leave some for Charlie.
Your grandpa already ate. I love you.

- Okay.
- Wish me luck.

Good luck.

You sure this looks okay?

Yeah. You look perfect.

Your mother's settled, you know?

Selling insurance.

- Somebody's got to sell insurance, right?
- Yeah.

Some of them are happy, probably.

But I think Yale mostly took care
of her anxieties.

It's not my place to judge
what she's looking for, but...

you know, I'd say she's all right.

Yeah, hope so.

What's all your stuff doing here?

I'm going to Manhattan.

It's time. Wesley has a place.

Well, if you're gonna be a writer,
you got to get a job.

Yeah. I'm not sure what that is yet.

Insurance is taken.

It's America. Pick something.

That everything?

Yeah, that's it.

Don't say I never gave you nothing.


- You got to be fucking kidding me.
- Whoa.

You old enough to drive this thing?

- Better treat her with respect.
- Steering wheel is on the left.

It's a man's car.

You sure there's gas in it?

I guess you think you're a man now, huh?

You little punk.

It's un-fucking-believable.

- Guy thinks he's Elvis Presley, you know?
- Kid's not a kid.

You guys never gave me a car.

Actually, he owes me this fucking car.

Get the fuck out of here.

We don't want ya.


Don't come back!

When you set out
to be a lawyer, you go to law school.

You get a diploma for your effort.

You pass the bar.

In the text, it declares you
officially a lawyer.

That's how most jobs work.

But you're a writer
the minute you say you are.

Nobody gives you a diploma.

You have to prove it,
at least to yourself.

On that day, driving to Manhattan...

Stashies in my wallet,
Uncle Charlie's car...

That's the moment I knew I was a writer.

And just my luck,
publishing was headed toward memoir.