I wrote about the AFI Fest two weeks ago, and said Part 3 would be next. As my previous blog notes, my mother died in between, so I now bring Part 3. Barney's Version is in a few theatres now (maybe only Los Angeles and New York), but keep it on your radar.
Of the five films we saw the week of the AFI Fest film festival, I’d put Barney’s Version as the most surprising—i.e. I was surprised I liked it so much. Directed by Richard J. Lewis (Whale Music), it’s the story of a Jewish Canadian television producer named Barney Panofsky (Paul Giamatti), whose life we see over 40 years and three marriages. Barney drinks a lot, says the wrong things, can be very critical and loud-mouthed, and gets himself into trouble when he could have avoided things—and yet you can’t help like the guy or at least be fascinated by him. This film is what Casino Jack isn’t.
Based on Mordecai Richler’s 1997 novel, so much happens, I simply enjoyed the ride. Early in the story, a police detective (Mark Addy) who’s been hounding Barney for years explains he’s published a book proving that Barney’s best friend Boogie died at Barney’s hands. Murder. After the detective leaves, we flash back to Barney’s younger and expatriate days in Rome, where we meet Boogie (Scott Speedman) and Barney’s first wife, Claire (Rachelle Lefevre), who Barney married because he got her pregnant. The marriage is doomed.
Licking his wounds back in hometown Montreal, he meets a Jewish American Princess (Minnie Driver), whose family looks down on him and his father, played by Dustin Hoffman. It’s at his second wedding that Barney meets Miriam (Rosamund Pike) and pursues her. It all leads to Boogie’s disappearance and Barney’s role in it.
Barney’s Version, paced perfectly, lets you get lost in story. Its fabulous cast, when in the flashbacks, are supposed to look younger, and they do—the magic of movie-making. I’m hoping Giamatti and Hoffman get Oscar nominations. All three wives are equally superb. In short, this is a film that earns its pathos and humor. See it.
Paul Giamatti and Dustin Hoffman in "Barney's Version." ---
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