- Director:Richard J. Lewis
- Cast:Minnie Driver , Jake Hoffman , Paul Giamatti, Dustin Hoffman, Rosamund Pike
- Release Date:March 24, 2011
- Running time:131 minutes
- Film Worth:$18.00
- FILMINK rates movies out of $20 - the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
While it appears to be a cynical comedy from the outset, this develops into a moving, poignant and wholly fascinating saga.
At first, this seems like a slightly guilty pleasure: a cynical comedy, high on laughs, yet low on substance. But it develops inexorably into something much more serious: Barney's Version is moving and poignant, while never ceasing to mine its rich vein of humour.
Paul Giamatti plays Barney Panofsky, a Jewish TV producer, slob, drunkard, hockey fanatic, curmudgeon, veteran of three marriages...and suspected murderer. He's a complex character, to put it mildly - partly charismatic and romantic, partly crass, wholly emotionally needy - and Giamatti plays him sublimely, deservedly picking up a Golden Globe Award nomination for his stunning work here.
When the film begins, Barney is in Montreal lamenting the failure of his third marriage, but we're soon transported back to Rome in 1974, and the beginning of his first one. All three end in tears, if not death, but along the way, Barney meets the great love of his life, Miriam (Rosamund Pike), at his wedding to "the second Mrs. P" (Minnie Driver). Such complications are all grist to the mill of this big, sprawling, improbable, and yet deeply engrossing story. Factor in a subplot about the insidious tragedy of Alzheimer's disease, and you'll appreciate just how multi-faceted it is.
Everyone in the film is intriguing, and there are other standout performances, notably from Dustin Hoffman as Barney's retired detective father. The saga occasionally threatens to collapse under the weight of its intricate plot, but it never does; instead, it keeps us entranced.
Barney's Version is based on the book by the late Mordecai Richler. And, just like a really good novel, it gets you so well acquainted with its characters that they start to feel like your friends, and you don't want it to finish because that will mean never seeing them again.