May 9, 2022 – Sofia Black-D’Elia’s performance as Sam is remarkable for capturing the all-over-the-map mood swings of her character’s early sobriety. As Sam’s sponsor keeps telling her, she’s regaining access to emotions and sensations that she’s been numbing for more than a decade. Ally Sheedy, as the woman Sam calls her “smother,” is a bit of a cartoon character at first but over the season emerges as her own woman with her own story.

We should hope that Single Drunk Female finds an audience among the young people cited in all those medical studies.

Meanwhile, no one is getting sober in The Tender Bar, an Amazon Prime Video movie directed by George Clooney and based on a memoir by Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist J. R. Moehringer. Instead, the movie casts a rosy glow over the collection of barflies who provided young J. R. with a collective substitute for his own violent, alcoholic, and absent father. J. R.’s Uncle Charlie, the bartender (played by Ben Affleck), is seen taking the young man under his wing and giving him instructions in the “male sciences,” which here mainly involve what drinks to order, where to put your cigarettes, and where to hide your money.

While the recovering alcoholics in Single Drunk Female comprise a 21st-century diversity checklist of ethnicities and identities, the drinking in The Tender Bar (set in the 1970s and ’80s) is the sort that a century of movies has taught us to associate with rugged masculinity and male bonding. It reminds us of the cowboys gathering around the saloon and generations of hard-boiled detectives drinking to numb the pain of a world gone wrong. It is also the sort of drinking that provoked many American women to call for Prohibition a century ago.


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