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I just saw this wonderful film which is an amazing adaption to
Richler's story. The acting of the entire cast is extraordinary with
Paul Giamatti, Rosamund Pike, Minnie Driver and the great Dustin
Hoffman giving superlative performances. I sat in a small art-house
cinema in a suburb of Tel-Aviv, Israel and the quite large audience
(for a Saturday afternoon) enjoyed the film in total silence. You could
have heard a pin drop (and that doesn't happen very often!).
I note that some reviewers were offended by the fact that some of the characters were unpleasant Jews. Well, that happens in life and as a Jew I wasn't offended one little bit. Like every other people we have nice and not nice people and I found the film to be very truthful, very funny and also very sad. An exceptional achievement!
Of the few movies I really wanted to see but missed at this year's past
Toronto International Film Festival, Barney's Version is the one that I
regretted the most. It was one of the few shining examples of Canadian
film on display at the festival (and was anchored by the fact that it
was based off the critically acclaimed final novel by Canadian literary
icon Mordecai Richler), but apparently I was not the only one aiming to
see it. And after seeing the final film nearly five months later, I can
Barney (Paul Giamatti) is an aging television producer, divorced and comforted only by his cigars and rash drinking habits. As a new book is released detailing some sordid details of an event Barney would rather forget, he starts to look back on his life and all the many mistakes he made. And after three failed marriages, "many" may not be the apt word to describe them.
I had read Barney's Version as a forced assignment in my final year of high school, and never finished it cover to cover. It was dense, lengthy, rambled for pages on end, and just did not feel satisfyingly cohesive. It was punctuated throughout with hilarity, tragedy, and sorrow, but never wallowed in it. You could practically smell the detail of the characters wafting off each page. And as the title suggests, it was the story of Barney's life, as told by Barney. It was a somewhat enjoyable book, but having almost failed the assignment, my memories of it are rather tarnished.
To my delight, this is not how the movie feels at all.
As opposed to a literal page to screen translation, Michael Konyves has instead whittled and simplified the narrative down to the basics. He changes, updates and moves a few things around, and loses others completely. While this may outrage some fans of the book, it makes the film all the easier to digest. It never gets lost in what it is trying to say, and never falls into any of the densely boring traps the novel set out for itself. The odd and intimate details of each character are still here (more so from the principal cast than the supporting players), as is the snappy and hilarious dialogue. And for the entire running time, the film stays in Richler's unique voice, never straying into unknown or lesser territory in any instance. For someone who has previously worked mainly in television, this is an excellent achievement and one that makes me look forward to Konyves future projects.
As a Canadian myself, it pains me to note that the majority of films I see are of foreign creation. So it was with great surprise that Barney's Version, a Canadian film, looked and felt just as good as any film coming out of the likes of the United States. The sweeping decades-long set design, costumes, makeup and soundtrack are all handled excellently as well. The little quips about Montreal and Canadian life are great, as are the small blink-and-you'll-miss-them cameos by some of the country's most famous auteurs. And unlike so many Canadian-made films, Barney's Version stays true to the nation of its birth but never force feeds Canadiana down the audience's throats. This of course, is a small quip that may not be noticed in the slightest by most audiences. But it is one that should be duly noted for all future Canadian productions nonetheless.
As Barney, Giamatti is stunning and perfect as always. He is one of the most talented and underrated character actors of his generation, and he continues to prove his worth and excellence here. Barney's life is an emotional roller-coaster, and Giamatti gives his all to make the audience really feel for this pathetic, misguided, adolescent shell of a man. It reminded me a lot of his work in Sideways, and is likely his strongest work to date. No matter what emotion or word he is trying to convey, you will hang on every sound and look. He just keeps getting better with each new year, each new role. This is not quite the inspired brilliance of Colin Firth in The King's Speech, or the emotional powerhouse of James Franco in 127 Hours, but it is yet another example of how criminally overlooked he is come award season.
The rest of the cast is fairly solid, no matter their screen time. Rachelle Lefevre, Minnie Driver and especially Rosamund Pike are all excellent as Barney's wives, as is Scott Speedman as his best friend Boogie. But they are all overshadowed by Dustin Hoffman in the role of Barney's father Izzy. He steals the show from just about everyone, providing more gusto and depth than he has in years. And it does not hurt that he has the most hilariously devastating moment in the entire film.
If I have to hold anything against the film at all, it is in the fact that it loses its momentum much too soon. The entire first half of the film almost feels like whiplash from how fast-paced it moves along. But once the second half comes, and the emotional weight of the movie kicks into gear, it slows down a bit too hard. It never becomes boring, and never drags its heels like the book does, but it just lacks the power and finesse of everything that comes before it. The zest and drive of the film are always there, but with how much has been altered and changed to make the film more accessible to audiences, I think they could have done a bit more to keep the film going for its entire 132-minute running time.
Barney's Version is a revelation of a film, packed with a great story, excellent dialogue and even better performances. This is one of the unsung best films of the year, and one that has and will continue to be criminally overlooked.
I saw Barney's Version in Toronto. Loved it. Superb performances by all actors. Give yourself a night off, forget about your problems and find out about Barney's problems and his friends problems, and his wive's problems. It will make your life seem better. If you read the book, you most definitely will enjoy the movie. Poor Barney, nothing seems to turn out the way he wanted. He makes two really bad mistakes in his personal life and even though he is successful in business, he is really miserable and doesn't know how to fix it. An unexpected turn of events, and voilà, his worst problem is solved. But in an instant, he messes up again and is suspected of murder. The answer isn't revealed until the very end. I really felt sorry for Barney. The best line of the movie comes out of Minnie Driver on their Honeymoon. The best scene in the movie is a buff Scott Speedman stripping down to his underwear to go snorkeling. Dustin Hoffman is funny as heck. His son is also in the movie and is quite good. Rosamund Pike is enchanting and I see why Barney loved her so much. Barney is played by Paul Giammati and I will picture him as Barney forever. I wanted to give him a hug.
Greetings again from the darkness. Ordinarily, a film with Rosamund
Pike and Bruce Greenwood in key roles would be sufficient for me to
stay home and watch The Nature Channel. However, Paul Giamatti and
Dustin Hoffman, as son and father, in a story based on Mordecai
Richler's novel was motivation enough for me to buck up and give this
one a shot. And what a pleasant surprise this film is.
Giamatti has mastered the role of cynical, self-absorbed, frumpy schlub and his Barney is every bit that. The story is told through extended flashbacks after we learn a detective has written a book accusing Barney of killing his best friend (Scott Speedman). No charges were brought and it's not until the end in an extremely creative reveal that we understand what really happened that day at the lake. Unfortunately, we aren't sure if Barney ever understands, but that's a whole different topic.
Barney's first marriage comes about because his girlfriend gets pregnant. This one ends in tragedy and betrayal and allows Barney to spend much of his life on the path of cynicism, alcoholism and cigar-chain-smoking. He is no pretty sight - from inside or out. He stumbles into his second marriage, this one to Minnie Driver. Ms. Driver is wonderful as the Jewish princess with a Master's Degree. How do we know? She continually reminds us of both facts. Ever known anyone that just constantly reminds you of how smart they are? How this marriage ends leads to the whole suspicion of murder and loss of best friend for Barney.
The real key to the story occurs at the wedding. Instead of worshiping his new bride, Barney watches hockey, does shots with his Dad (Dustin Hoffman) and experiences love at first sight ... not with his bride, but with a guest played by Rosamund Pike. This encounter puts Barney on a singular mission of winning over Ms. Pike, despite his marriage to Driver. Can't really give anything away here other than the story is very clever in how it handles the pursuit, failed marriage and subsequent true love story.
Only thing is, Barney never really "gets" what true love is. Pike has a wonderful scene where she explains that life and love are in "the seconds, the minutes, the routines". Barney nods but is clearly in over his head in so many ways.
What I really appreciate about this story is how there are so many relationships that seem to spring from reality ... people we know in situations we've been in. The title, of course, refers to Barney's version of reality. How he sees things. We could each replace his name with ours for a movie on our life. Do we see reality, or is reality how we interpret these seconds, minutes, routines? The answer seems pretty clear.
The film is directed by Richard J. Lewis (not the comedian) but is really a product of the amazing story and talented cast led by the extraordinary performance of Giamatti. Dustin Hoffman's scenes are all excellent, and his real life son Jake, plays his grandson in the film. Don't miss the quick scenes featuring standout directors Atom Egoyan, David Cronenberg and Ted Kotcheff. It's also character actor extraordinare Maury Chaykin's final film. And I certainly can't omit mention of the fabulous soundtrack featuring T-Rex, JJ Cale, Donovan and others. Leonard Cohen's "I'm Your Man" plays over the closing credits so don't leave early!
Watched it in a early screening in Toronto, and I was shocked! I didn't
expect such an amazing movie. Will remember it for the rest of my life.
Ignore the comments by Jewish ladies who were offended by the movie's contents. Those are just a small part of this masterpiece.
The roles are all played well. Paul Giamatti's role is nothing short of Oscar-winning in my opinion. The story is fun, but serious. The scenes are high-quality and well designed. I really didn't see anything missing.
Just one point, DO NOT watch the trailers. They completely spoil the movie. I think the main reason I loved the movie was that I did not know anything about it. But for those who have read the book, it should still be fun. It's a well-made movie, on top of a wonderful story.
Barney's Version is based upon the novel of the same name by Mordecai Richler. The film spans several decades showing us the life of a man named Barney Panofsky. The film does not hold back Barney's flaws as he is very foul mouthed, speaks his mind (whether you want him to, or not), drinks, smokes cigars and a lot of the time is an ego centric jerk. However during the years we see Barney change in some ways as he meets different women in his life and deals with family and friends as well as humour and tragedy that everybody can say would happen in their life and has. The trailers for Barney's Version, or at least the ones that I have seen being played on the television, make the film look like a raucous comedy, when really it couldn't be any farther from the truth, or what is really at the heart of the film. There is a great deal of comedy in this film as we laugh together with Barney and his antics and sometimes laugh right at him for his unsophisticated and ignorant ways. However as I said above we do get to see many different sides of Barney as the film goes along and after awhile I stopped thinking that this character is full of himself and kind of a jerk. Instead, I realized and I think the point of the writing and the film itself was to present him as a normal human being with some very good points and also some very obvious flaws, or things they need to work on, which in a sense I think describes just about anybody you can think of. By giving Barney a human side and allowing us the viewer to care for him in moments even when we don't want to, I feel it really enhances the film and our relationship with him and the other characters while watching it. I love when films do not just present characters as one dimensional and having no real flaws, or struggles and they just fit every perfect Hollywood hero out there. I find that when they do that it is so unbelievable and it is harder to like, care, or be interested in the characters because of this. I am so glad that Barney's Version took the opposite route. By not only caring for Barney in the film we get to care about his family and the circumstances that will either be the most joyous in his life, or the most heartbreaking and we are there every minute of it and it will keep us fascinated, concerned and move us sometimes into laughter and at other times close to tears. This film is a real powerfully emotional film. Yes there is the comedy aspect, but it goes so beyond that by showing the inevitable difficulties we will all end up facing in life and I think because it is done so strongly here, it makes us reflect on our own lives and the choices we have made so far no matter how old, or young you are and whether those choices have been good, or just the opposite. The writing of the characters and what makes them so human is one of the film's strongest points because they all have wonderfully different personalities and are all a joy to watch as we watch their lives unfold before us. The acting is also wonderful here especially by Paul Giamatti, who plays Barney in what I would call one of the best male performances of 2010. He embodies the role so perfectly and we can see the emotion, the hurt, the humour and everything coming out of this brilliant performance. The supporting actors and actresses are all very good here as well. I was so pleased at what an involving film this was. It took me away from my own world and thoughts and put me instead into Barney's world and made me laugh, cry and reflect with them and what a wonderful experience that was. Barney's Version is not only entertaining, but also deeply human and full of humour and tragedy that will both touch our hearts and leave us with what I think is a wonderful and insightful night out at the movies. Barney's Version is one of the best films of 2010 and I hope both American and Canadian audiences will embrace it and go out to see this wonderful gem.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This review contains SPOILERS
I wanted to like this film, since I'm a big fan of both Paul Giamatti, who gave a wonderful performance, and Dustin Hoffmann who was delightful and reminded me why he's (still) considered one of the best actors of his generation. But I felt angry and manipulated by this film -- much in the same way I do with a formulaic romantic comedy. The plot also had some gaping holes -- such as with Minnie Driver's character being so unidimensionally annoying after the marriage that I was left wondering how Barney could have possibly made it to the alter since he clearly hated this woman.
Most importantly, it was a HUGE stretch to believe that such an accomplished woman would fall so easily for a man who shows up drunk on their date, vomits in the restaurant and ploys to bed her. I found it insulting and am so tired of this theme in so many Hollywood films. Why did she stay with the schmuck for 20-odd years when he was clearly deeply insecure, and an alcoholic? The film didn't let us in on any of Barney's redeeming qualities that might have answered this question. Instead, the film unfortunately sends an all too common and egotistical message that men can behave badly and still get the girl in the end.
The movie moved me through it's no holds barred view of Barney's life. We see his imperfections and self-inflicted wounds even as he tries to build a life and family with his true love. Paul Giamatti wonderfully portrays a life though the stages from youthful and idealistic 20's through the difficulties of aging and confronting death. If you want to give yourself a chance to be introspective about your own path and the choices you've made in the various parts of your life you'll find this movie to be very moving. It is a movie that the 50+ crowd will find to be meaningful and honest. There is a lot to dislike about Barney and the way he has hurt others, yet there is a good heart underneath it all (as he yet fulfills the adage of being his own worst enemy). This was a wonderful movie, now I'm looking forward to reading the book and then seeing it again.
Giamatti has got to be the plainest looking leading man out there; yet,
his acting ability transcends his anti-matinée idol physiognomy by a
significant amount. And, remembering "Sideways," there is nobody who
can play a guy half-in-the-bag nearly as well. HIs facial expressions,
comic timing, and the way in which he delivers his lines are just
brilliant (and if you think he can only do comic turns, see HBO's "John
Adams"). Yet, every scene that he was in with Dustin Hoffman, Hoffman
stole! The director (Richard J. Lewis) is able to get everything from
this very talented cast, and puts together a movie that never drags, is
easy to follow even though it uses the flashback, and is punctuated
with several laugh-out-louds.
Giamatti's character--although a cad in some ways--manages to also be quite endearing, and character development in the whole movie is excellent. We know these people...some of them are in our family, some are friends or perhaps, live next door. To be sure, there is a Jewish aspect to the individuals and story (it's pretty hard to divorce that aspect from anything Richler has written), but all the issues are universal. If Woody Allen had done this movie, there would have been endless navel gazing, and the characters would have been more 2-dimensional (just a mind game I played since the characters and the themes are similar to those that The Woodman deals with).
At any rate, this is a brilliantly constructed examination of a life that is enjoyable and entertaining; also, a great movie to see and have dinner afterwards so all those who saw it with you could discuss--a lot of meat for that. But, if it's not on a big screen within 30 miles of you, it will play very well on the small screen in a few months; but certainly go out of your way to see it.
This was a beautiful, fascinating film about a very anti-social character Barney Panofsky. It starts out in Rome in the 1970's and spans a period of thirty years. The film is part murder mystery, love story, and lastly a memoir of a Jewish Canandian television producer, unlikable but never predictable. Paul Giametti gave an Oscar worthy performance as this complex character. He actually makes you care about Barney. Rosamind Pike, as Barney's third wife is wonderful, as is Minnie Driver as the overbearing, Jewish 2nd wife. Dustin Hoffman is Barney's dad and he captures the qualities of an earthy retired cup from the touch neighbors of Montreal. Scott Speedman does a wonderful job as Barney's drug addict best friend. 'Barney's Version' is based on the novel by Mordecai Richler. a very famous Jewish novelist. To see our full review please go to Two Jews On Film. We give this film a high bagel rating
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