{2jtab: Movie Review}

Barneys Version - Movie Review


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4 stars

Barney’s Version is a well-made condensation of Mordecai Richler’s prize-winning boat anchor of a book. While sometimes a little scatter-brained and occasionally a bit uneven, this wise, witty character piece feels much lighter and breezier than it actually is. And that’s a major coup considering its 400-page source novel, 2-hour plus runtime, and near three-decade span across two continents in the life of the titular Barney Panofsky (Paul Giamotti).

The story, told in the form of a grand candid confessional, comes from Barney’s point of view, and takes us through his extraordinarily colorful history. Barney is particularly compelled to tell his version of the story now because his sworn enemy has just published a tell-all book that uncovers many of the more sordid details of Barney’s past; including the numerous shady entrepreneurial ventures, the three failed marriages, and the mysterious, unsolved disappearance of his best friend, Boogie (Scott Speedman) whom even Barney isn’t sure he didn’t murder.

As Barney tells his story, we’re taken on a meandering saunter down memory lane often clouded by his poor memory and ever-frequent drunkenness. We get the feeling he’s not only telling his story to enlighten us, but to somehow explain it to himself as well. Giamatti seems to excel in these roles where he’s allowed to turn a detestable, pathetic, schlub into a likeable, affectionate character. He did it wonderfully with his Miles Raymond in Sideways – he does it even better here.

We learn about Barney through his three marriages, each representing a distinct “act” of his “three ring circus” of a life. Barney marries his first wife, the loopy, red-haired, suicidal artist, Clara (Rachelle LeFevre) while living “la vie de Boheme” in Rome during the ‘70s. Upon his return to Montreal years later, Barney ends up marrying the crass, Jewish Canadian princess, “The Second Mrs. P., (Minnie Driver). But his wedding night isn’t even over before he meets the love-of-his-life, Miriam (Rosamund Pike) who will shortly become his third wife and the mother his children.

As Barney settles down with Miriam, director Richard J. Lewis’s film seamlessly sheds its dark, comedic undertones and takes on the persona of a grand love story. We realize the mood of the film is mirroring Barney’s transition from a lonely soul schlepping through the motions of life, to a man finally content with what he’s made of himself. The beautiful Rosamund Pike has a way of doing that to people!

But don’t be mistaken by thinking that Barney is no longer the grumpy, profane, cigar chain-smoking wretch he used to be. It’s just that Giamatti has now made us care for his grumpy, profane, cigar chain-smoking wretchedness. Giamatti has a way of doing that with his characters. We know Barney’s heart is on the right place, it’s just that he’s so darn complicated, self-destructive, and dangerous, we’re always on edge wondering if he’ll eventually screw up this marriage too. It’s not long before he eventually does.

Richler’s novel is clearly meant to be one of those complicated, all-encompassing epic tales filled with many rich narrative layers and colorful characters. And those are very difficult stories to adapt into successful screenplays. We’ve seen it done to varying degrees of success through the years, including decades ago with The World According to Garp, then later in Forrest Gump, and most recently with Benjamin Button. But while those films carried heavy messages and were steeped in tedious social or moral significance – not to mention they felt long as hell, Michael Konyves ‘s screenplay isn’t out to teach a lesson, it’s not a morality tale and it’s not about how life should be lived. It’s just a story about the joys of being alive and about finding compassion in our lives. Many will find fault with its pointless plot, but watching Giamatti once again bring sweetness, compassion and lovability to a miserable cad of a character is a beautiful thing to watch.


{2jtab: Film Details}

Barney's Version - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: R for language and some sexual content.
: Richard J. Lewis
: Michael Konyves
Paul Giamatti; Minnie Driver; Rosamund Pike; Dustin Hoffman
: Comedy | Drama
Memorable Movie Quote:
"No! I'm bent over backwards in love! "
Sony Pictures Classics
First he got married. Then he got married again. Then he met the love of his life.
Official Site: www.sonyclassics.com/barneysversion
Release Date: January 14, 2011 (limited); February 11, 2011 (wide)
Blu-ray Release Date:
June 28, 2011

Plot Synopsis: Based on Mordecai Richler's prize-winning comic novel--his last and, arguably, best -- Barney's Version is the warm, wise, and witty story of Barney Panofsky (Paul Giamatti), a seemingly ordinary man who lives an extraordinary life. A candid confessional, told from Barney's point of view, the film spans four decades and two continents, taking us through the different ?acts? of his unusual history. There is his first wife, Clara (Rachelle Lefevre), a flame-haired, flagrantly unfaithful free sprit with whom Barney briefly lives la vie de Boheme in Rome. The ?Second Mrs. P.,R14; (Minnie Driver), is a wealthy Jewish Princess who shops and talks incessantly, barely noticing that Barney is not listening. And it is at their lavish wedding that Barney meets, and starts pursuing, Miriam (Rosamund Pike), his third wife, the mother of his two children, and his true love. With his father, Izzy (Dustin Hoffman) as his sidekick, Barney takes us through the many highs, and a few too many lows, of his long and colorful life. Not only does Barney turn out to be a true romantic, he is also capable of all kinds of sneaky acts of gallantry, generosity, and goodness when we -- and he -- least expect it. His is a gloriously full life, played out on a grand scale. And, at its center stands an unlikely hero -- the unforgettable Barney Panofsky.


{2jtab: Blu-ray/DVD Review}

Barney's Version - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades

Blu-ray Disc
4 stars

4 stars

Blu-ray Experience
4 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - June 28, 2011
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
: English, English SDH
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); DVD copy; BD-Live
Playback: Region A

The crisp AVC-encoded transfer handles the demands of the chronological leaps of the narrative nicely. Varying hues are nicely handled with warm colors and cool skin tones presented with striking clarity. Detail is fine and the detail of the interiors is solid. The verbose 5.1 DTS-HD sound mix sprinkles the mixture of voices and provides a nice immersive sound field for viewers.



  • Provided by director Richard J. Lewis, writer Michael Konyves, and producer Robert Lantos, the commentary track is an energetic one at best.  The conversation quickly turns to the production and overall look of the film and it remains there for the length of the feature.  Informative and entertaining, this will surely please advocates of the film’s complex handling.

Special Features:

Full of standard production behind-the-scenes supplementals, the special features are a bit on the brief side of things but they are satisfying.  The best bits are the sit-down with the author as the book and the film are discussed and the 30-plus minute interview with Giamatti as he discuses his career and the film.

The breakdown is as follows:

  • Behind the Scenes (10 min)
  • Mordecai Richler (3 min)
  • On the Red Carpet (4 min)
  • 92nd Street Y Q&A with Paul Giamatti and Annette Insdorf (35 min)
  • Theatrical Trailer


{2jtab: Trailer}