Wed 23 Feb 2011
Well, not quite, but it is certainly one of the better films of 2010, a year that had a hearty crowd of terrific movies.
Barney’s Version stars Paul Giamatti, an actor who has made a career of portraying neurotic, left-of-center characters. His Barney Panofsky is one for the Neurotic Hall of Fame (which does not do much of a gift shop concession business, except for the hand sanitizers).
Barney is a TV soap opera producer in Montreal who likes his scotch, cigars and hockey. He comes from a middle class Jewish family background, but attempts social climbing through matrimony. The Jewish class struggle is a major backbone of the film.
Despite marrying three times, Barney loves only one woman– Miriam, who he meets at his second wedding (the marrying-up- the-Jewish-social-ladder marriage). Barney becomes instantly infatuated with Miriam, and she eventually becomes wifey-poo #3 . Miriam is well-played by Rosamund Pike.
This movie has a complex storyline and is much like a novel with intersecting characters and plots. It is based on a novel by Mordecai Richler and is probably fairly true to the book.
The supporting cast features Dustin Hoffman as Barney’s dad, Minnie Driver as Barney’s second bride, Scott Speedman as Barnie’s best friend and tortured writer pal. All of the acting is spot-on, as is the writing and directing.
So what does Barney’s Version lack? Well, it is always interesting, you do want to know what happens next, but ultimately it fails because we never really get a sense at exactly what makes Barney Barney.
Maybe in the novel Barney is fleshed-out, brought to believable life, but here he goes from situation to situation, like a pinball in a machine. He is motivated, but we never quite know by what.
And maybe that’s the point. Who can explain any one person’s behavior? But I needed a little more soul to Barney in order to buy his motivations of the heart.
That said, Barney’s Version is definitely worth seeing, if not in the theatre with $8 popcorn, than at home with a scotch and a cigar.