Director: Richard J. Lewis
Screenwriter: Michael Konyves based on the eponymous novel by Mordecai Richler
Runtime: 131 mins.
Australian release date: 24 March 2011
Stories about damaged people make interesting viewing and Barney's Version, adapted from Mordecai Richler’s comic novel, is one of them. In this tale, the central character, Barney Panofsky (Paul Giamatti) is compelled to tell his version of his rather complex life to save his reputation, which is being hauled through the coals by a sworn enemy.
The film spans nearly four decades and two continents and covers the ups and downs experienced by the 65-year-old, thrice married, self-deprecating TV producer, who names his successful company Totally Unnecessary Productions. This is all utterly believable as you immerse yourself in Barney’s life; a life which is riddled by booze and self-recrimination. He is a character who makes us laugh with and at him.
The layered revelations of Barney’s life are as revealing as the episodes of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, also directed by Richard J. Lewis, a series that he remained with for nine seasons. Barney portrays a life that gradually disintegrates before our eyes, but, regardless of his shambolic appearance, he is a great thinker and talker. This makes us believe that he was perfectly capable of courting and subsequently marrying three beautiful women. Ultimately it is his ordinariness that makes him attractive.
Supported by a superb cast of characters, including Clara (Rachelle Lefevre), whom he meets in Rome and for a moment lives a Bohemian existence with, the second Mrs P (Minnie Driver), a wealthy Jewish princess and Miriam (Rosamund Pike), the mother of his two kids and the love of his life, Barney candidly confesses all on screen, revealing his befuddled interpretation of a murder of which he is still a prime suspect. His life is made all the more complex by his loving and loyal ex-cop father, played by Dustin Hoffman. Incidentally, it is the second time that Giamatti and Hoffman have appeared together, since their collaboration on Confidence in 2003.
This is a terrific film about the hits and misses in relationships and ultimately how insignificant people can lead the most significant of existences, even though the film suggests that, ‘life is like pushing an avocado through a cheese grater… all you are left with is shit’. In Barney’s case, we leave the cinema hoping that he was spared the memories for too long. Barney's Version is a grand narrative, which contains the added fun of seeking out the four noted Canadian Directors who make cameo appearances. Go see this version, you won’t be disappointed…