The Tavern is the story of two New Yorkers who buy a neighborhood tavern, and their struggles to make a go of it. Ronnie is the loser brother who lived in the shadow of his older brother who died young. Dave is the henpecked assistant manager at Costco.
These aren’t exactly the kind of people you’d put your money on to succeed with as tough a business as a bar and grill, especially when the movie opens with them getting snookered on the purchase by the previous owner. (He pretends he got a higher offer so they’ll bid against themselves, then he opens another bar close by and takes the best customers and employees with him.) But they have a dream, and they commit their labor and everything they can borrow to their new enterprise.
I think this film would have been better off concentrating on the ups and downs of the tavern itself. That is indeed the main story, but the movie is filled with related subplots that take up much of the (under 90 minutes) running time. Ronnie’s bitchy sister is getting married, Dave’s ogre of a wife is making trouble (there are some decidedly unpleasant women in this movie), Ronnie’s delinquent nephew comes to work in the tavern, Dave has problems at Costco, Ronnie’s pursuing a romance, Ronnie’s divorced parents might be amenable to reconciliation, etc., etc.
Some of these subplots are developed in some detail (e.g., Ronnie’s struggles with his nephew) and some are quite perfunctory and probably didn’t need to be in the film at all. But none—the nephew stuff comes closest—are really developed in an interesting enough way to warrant distracting from the main story of whether the business will succeed or fail.
The two main characters are likable enough, and there’s some appeal in spending time with them and following their story. Nothing about the movie is deadly dull or fails completely, but it also rarely rises above the ordinary.
I liked the ending. It took me a second to catch on to the twist, but it uses a parallel narrative structure to bring things together quite nicely and give you something to think about as the credits come up.
The Tavern is a modest little movie, not something that made a big impression on me, but I’d be inclined to give it a very narrow thumbs up.