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This is the type of heavy emotional drama you assume it will be, the
type we sometimes put off watching or avoid altogether because we're
not in the mood to sign up for two hours of other people's emotions. It
is. But it doesn't descend into the indie-depressing melodramatics of
much of Giamattis work and is thus one of the better and more
digestible films of his career. Hoffman, while only getting minor
screen-time is great, the supporting cast are believable, and Giamatti
is still the actor we all know him to be; powerfully conveying a whole
slew of emotions simultaneously and with force.
The gist is that this guy lives life to the beat of his impulses, bound to a story of preventable trauma by his stubborn unconscious refusal to ever stop risking everything for what his heart tells him what he wants most. There's some literature-league inspirational content to be found there, but what most comes across in the viewing is a well acted, well written bunch of semi depressing but wonderfully blunt stuff that is more entertaining than you might expect. It won't be for everyone and isn't shy about its bittersweet message, but it's easily recommendable to those who like the idea of a dramatic exploration of one man's self- destructive experience.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Beautiful acting, solid directing, but this film is all too obviously an adaption of a novel. Whereas views have been expressed about the script being an obvious improvement over the book cinematography-wise, the plot still tries to pack too much and as a consequence fails on a number of levels. Characters are unshaped and therefore do not make sense: Boogie is the most obvious one, he plays a big part initially, relates with everyone, but we have no idea who he is, what's driving him, why did he do the things he did. So are the first wife, the children, the policeman. With the film trying to span tens of years whilst rendering a comprehensive picture of Barney's life, little can be afforded to any character other than Barney's. I can't say that, save for the acting, I enjoyed the film. It is unwieldy and the characters do not add up.
Appropriately, for a film very much about the passage of time, Richard
J. Lewis' Barney's Version takes its time getting its hooks into you.
Detailing the adult life of Barney Panofsky (Paul Giamatti), the film
is a slow-paced and melancholic reflection piece, a character study of
memory and how our interaction with the past leads us to the present.
It's unfortunately a film that has been largely overlooked, but is
certainly well worth your time.
Telling the story largely in flashback from a character's memory, Lewis invites us to question and scrutinise what we are being shown. Indeed, as the title of the film suggests, what we are seeing is very much Barney's remembered version of events. Yet memory is such a subjective thing, and with slowly decreasing subtlety leading up the devastating final scenes, Lewis makes it clear that perhaps Barney's version is not necessarily what really happened. Certain elements just don't seem to fit, and it's impossible not to see flaws in Barney's recollections.
The film itself isn't perfect either. There is a significant amount of time dedicated to Barney's second marriage to Minnie Driver's character, an incredibly unlikeable character serving no purpose other than to present an awkward situation for Barney to meet the true love of his life, Miriam (Rosamund Pike). Similarly, the mysterious disappearance of Barney's best friend Boogie (Scott Speedman), while seeming at least initially to be an important aspect of the story, is left to linger and suffers from a clunky, tacked on resolution. Lewis clearly wants us to see these moments as parts of Barney's constructed past, born from guilt perhaps, but they could have been handled better. However, in spite of its flaws, the film succeeds chiefly for one reason: the masterful performance of Giamatti.
Much like the film itself, Giamatti's performance is a slow burn. For the majority of Barney's Version, it's fairly typical work from Giamatti, an actor who has the bitter, cynical middle-aged man role down with such precision to the point of almost becoming typecast cliché. He's not an easy character to empathise with, as early on his memories seem to remove himself from any responsibility for the various tragedies that occur, yet something about Barney grows on you. Lewis slowly introduces things which suggest Barney is not the awful person that he thinks he is, and it's not until the end that the brilliance of Giamatti's performance can truly be understood and appreciated. For anyone interested in how a gifted actor crafts a character, Barney's Version demands multiple viewings to study Giamatti, in arguably his finest performance, and his skill at leading audiences down one path, only to completely change tone at the crucial moment with heart-breaking results. There is excellent support from Dustin Hoffman as Barney's eccentric father, and a wonderfully graceful performance from Rosamund Pike, but the film belongs completely to Giamatti.
Barney's Version is not going to be for anyone. It's slow, and borders on being a little melodramatic at times, but worthwhile to see some of the absolute best work by an actor in recent memory.
I didn't have a problem with Barney's Version per se.... it just ran a
little too long for what it tried to achieve. I've seen highway
roadkill movies and how it gets scooped up off the side of the road
that get more to the point than this film does. And that's not
necessarily a bad thing... but in this particular case, it is.
Pay attention to Paul Giamatti's hair throughout the film. Full head = past, balding = distant past, bald spot = the now, baby. Yes, the movie has something to do with Barney (Giamatti) and his somehow/somewhat involvement of the death of a rock 'n roll legend and the movie is told via flashbacks. As I said... pay attention to the hair.
The characters are intriguing enough for some.... but.... it would be nice to put some story or drama along with it to make some scenes rather dramatic. As it stands, we don't actually see any type of conflict until the very tail end of the film -- which is a dire shame. More reviews at www.soveryterry.com Final Grade: C
Barney is and old and lonely man. A new book is coming out that
highlights certain details he wishes to keep secret. He reflects on his
life and falling in love on his wedding day...with another woman.
Barney's Version is a Canadian film that feels American. I can't really describe it any other way, it feels like an American film, mostly because it's not a documentary or directed by Paul Gross. That alone gets points in my book, are we as a country finally getting things right in the movie making business? A little late if you ask me.
Aside from the fact that it's Canadian, it's a really well made film. Paul Giamatti gives yet another terrific performance. One to add to an already impressive list. It's a shame the guy has never earned an Oscar. This role could have easily been nominated and I rank it among his best work. He has a lot of help from the supporting cast though. Dustin Hoffman plays his father, again a great role for such a character actor. Rosamund Pike and Minnie Driver are two ladies that Barney marries. Pike is given a bit more to do than Driver, but both are memorable. Scott Speedman, a guy more known for his looks than his acting plays Barney's best friend and has a key role in a bit of drama that circulates Barney's life.
The film is loaded with small cameos from famous Canadians, the aforementioned Paul Gross has a small bit, Atom Egoyan, Mark Camacho, and David Cronenberg. Film fanatics, or Canadians who know their movies will pick up on these things. They might also notice that while the film is Canadian, it never tries to force that fact on us. With most Canadian productions, you must have a certain amount of Canadian content. One glance at the film One Week can testify to this. While there are bits and pieces that are definitely Canadian, it never feels forced. This is mostly why the film feels American at times.
Barney's Version is a great film that details the life of one troubled man who has everything and loses it. It's depressing at times and it hit home with a few topics that most people can relate to, Alzheimer's's. The film feels accomplished. It's well written and directed, as I mentioned earlier the acting is superb. I can easily recommend this to anyone looking for a film with a great story and great performances.
Let's say you are not Canadian. Or Jewish. Then how are you entertained
by the movie? Alternatively, how do you explain that Giamatti won the
Golden Globe for a COMEDY? To me, the film is overlong, depressing, and
devoid of entertainment. The acting is a dissonance. Dustin Hoffman is
trying to be lovable Dustin Hoffman and to take over every scene he is
in. Minnie Driver is fine but her character supposedly did her master's
at McGill and shows nothing of the sort. Actress portraying 3d
wife/"love of entire life" does not do any acting, and Giammatti is
forced to overact (I actually think he is brilliant in showing the
aging of the character through the physical cues, but watching one
scene after another of drinking/smoking/doing something idiotic gets
tiring after awhile).
I do not join the criticisms along the lines "how did all these women fell for this guy?"--it happens, women like to be pursued and do not necessarily fall for Apollonic beauty or Emily Post table manners. I have not read the book, so can't really comment on faithfulness of the movie, but I do think the title is unfortunate (i.e. something works fine for the way the book is structured but not here).
Thumbs down. Unless you are Jewish Canadian.
This is a technically well craft film that is flawed for a number of reasons. Firstly the movie plays just like a book, it has that bad translation to film feel to it that never lets you forget that it was someone's novel first, and the film is obviously missing pages, yet feels overly long. Maybe that's just because this is one of those youth till old age stories that books can do well but movies always fail at when they cast the same actors in all age roles. Giamatti plays the central character, an alleged babe magnet who manages to pull and marry 3 good looking women. Giamatti is so unappealing and this is one of the central flaws of the movie. ie no one believes the character Giamatti creates is in the slightest bit interesting or appealing, and this character is the same character he plays in almost every movie he's done, and I for one don't need to see him do it again. The saving grace of this movie is Rosamund Pike. She is fantastic and highly believable as the infatuation of love at first sight. Smart and sexy, we can never believe she'd fall for Giamatti's salivating dog act. Most of the rest of the movie is OK. Good cinematography, locations and supporting cast and performances, but fatally flawed to average by a central miscasting. Giamatti's character is a TV producer and we get to see him as an object of desire to attractive women while being a cigar slobbering drunk, a myth I'm sure badly aging slobbering drunk movie makers want to perpetuate too.
What starts off well enough quickly loses all steam before the halfway point, leaving the remainder of the film a bloated, leaden bore (much like the protagonist). If, after watching the trailer, you are expecting a snappy, sharp comedy then think again (all the best laughs are in the trailer by the way). A whole lot of chaff should have ended up on the cutting room floor; better editing would have tightened up the slack comic timing and spared us from the tediously dragged out dramatic scenes. At the very end it felt like the "big reveal" moments were being spoon fed to me in the most condescending manner. Ultimately this movie fails to do justice to Mordecai Richler's writing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I like Paul Giamatti as an actor but he seemed a little out of place here. His character, Barney, seems to be some kind of sexaholic and we follow him as he flits uncontrollably from one woman to another to another. Luckily the women are fairly awful people as well so you don't have to feel sorry for them either. As other people have pointed out, it's a hell of a stretch to imagine any of those women being interested in him in reality so that kind of makes the film ridiculous from the get-go. It's clear he's a selfish slave to his compulsions but without any exploration as to why, or any struggle to control it, it seems a pointless meandering around a stranger's love life. I didn't see the point. I felt no real connection with him so when bad things happened to him I simply didn't care - in fact it's one of the rare occasions where I was cheering for the other guys instead. It tries to go all lovey-dovey and sentimental in a couple of places but it doesn't work because we've already witnessed him or his lovers being unconscionable tarts in the rest of the film. There were some good actors, good locations and good elements for a story here but the "story" didn't do it justice. I think they could've used the turn of events towards the end to much better effect to lift the film out of the doldrums, but instead it was wasted. A thoroughly pointless film as far as I'm concerned.
A fascinating portrait of a man's life and loves. The story of Barney through 3 marriages. There are some funny moments but this is more drama than comedy. Unexpected diversions along the way including a mysterious vanishing. Some faults: Although the makeup is good Paul Giamatti good but is too old to play Barney from young to old. Same for the blank faced Rosamund Pike. The supporting cast is better. Minnie Driver is quite funny and prettier than before and doesn't have than Rhino look anymore. Scott Speedman is quite good as a drug addict. Dustin is a bit too comical. Rachelle Lefevre is pretty and unexpected. There are some unnecessary flash backs. Would have been better just told in a straightforward plain chronological manner.
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