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Barney's Version

A movie directed by Richard J. Lewis

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Pleasent and often darkly humorous; an appealing new Giamatti film.

  • Aug 6, 2011
*** out of ****

There's something that I like about Paul Giamatti when it comes to his actions and his speech. He's almost an awkward man; but he's good at being that guy. He's played assholes before his character in "Barney's Version", but this one takes the cake. It's a good movie with a couple good stars and one very great one; and I'm sure you can guess who that is. It makes the most out of the source material, which is a novel written by Mordecai Richler. I haven't read the book for myself, but as they always say, it's probably better than the movie; but at least it got a good adaptation.

The story here concerns Barney Panofsky (Giamatti); a chain-smoking, forever-drinking middle-aged Jewish man who recalls his life, which was filled with mistakes and temporary happiness. He had three wives; one of them was, for sure, a keeper. The last wife he ever had was accepting, tolerant, beautiful, whimsical; all of the things that Barney was not. However, Barney was not a particularly pleasant person; and thus...temporary happiness.

The tale is told from Barney's point-of-view. That is why it is called his "version". It could be seen from many different angles, but the storyteller here doesn't care, and provides us with one view from one single human being. Barney gets married. His first wife kills herself. He gets married again, but this time, at his second marriage, he meets a woman who he thinks he might fancy more. She is unsure. Barney is on a whole other page. He will stop at nothing to marry the woman who he met as his own wedding, and there you have it.

The story is told efficiently, and pleasantly enough; without the epic-scale of other life-story films. It's about as good as "Forrest Gump" and not as good as "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", if one was compelled to compare, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth anything. In fact, I believe this story deserved to be told. It is, to say the least; admirable in the way it presents itself. It was a pleasure to watch; well-told, well-written overall, with only its over-length keeping the tale itself from greatness.

However, there is also one other problem; Barney is the only character that the film actually cares much about. He has a father (Dustin Haufman) who he often goes to for advice in what to do with his life, but even Hoffman's character isn't as complexly layered and detailed as the Barney character. The other side-characters either feel under-written or intentionally devoid of memorability; but then again, this is not truly a memorable movie.

Everything is there; everything is in place. The film isn't terribly daring, but I'm not going to lie; it certainly works. I believe that Giamatti carries the film on his shoulders. It's a typical story adapted from a presumably very good novel; and the translation from page-to-screen can only go so well. I'll say it goes smoothly enough here; director Richard J. Lewis seems to understand that over-stylizing films like this one can lead to their failure. He focuses on the drama and the performance of the lead, and he hits the target. It's not a perfect film, but I think it's quite good.

I've stated all the problems that come with this story, and I've stated pretty much everything I like about the film. If you like Paul Giamatti as much as I do, then yes, I'd say that you MIGHT just want to see it. There's not a whole lot that inspires me; nor do I think I would watch it again and study it with intense depth, but I have a lot of admiration for this film. Giamatti makes his piece-of-shit-human-being character work more than the character has the right to; and I liked that. Giamatti is an achiever; and so are most of the films he is in. He can make them work, and "Barney's Version", presenting Giamatti in top form; with a cigar in his mouth and booze in his breathe, is no exception.

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More Barney's Version reviews
review by . January 18, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         Part of what makes Barney’s Version so absorbing is that it’s intentionally told from an unreliable point of view. Much of the last thirty-five years of Barney Panofsky’s life unfold over the course of nearly two and a half hours, and yet there’s a noticeable lack of information. You may be tempted to think (1) that screenwriter Michael Konyves glossed over a few too many details from Mordecai Richler’s novel, or (2) …
Quick Tip by . December 30, 2010
Anyone looking for a little more insight into BARNEY'S VERSION, might want to check out my interview with the director, Richard Lewis.    http://blacksheepreviews.blogspot.com/2010/1...iews-richard-lewis.html
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie


Barney's Version
is a 2010 Canadian drama film directed by Richard J. Lewis, based on the novel of the same name by Mordecai Richler. The film was nominated for the Golden Lion at the 67th Venice International Film Festival.

Take a ride through the life and memories of Barney Panofsky, a hard-drinking, cigar-smoking, foulmouthed 65-year old hockey fanatic and television producer, as he reflects on his life's successes and (numerous) gaffes and failures as the final chapters of his own existence come sharply into focus. Written by Production 
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Movies, Dram


Director: Richard J. Lewis
Genre: Drama
Release Date: 23 December 2010
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 134 min
Studio: Serendipity Point Films, Fandango, Harold Greenberg Fund, The
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"An Unreliable Life Story"
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