This week in theaters Barney’s Version hits the big screen with the new love of my life, Paul Giamatti. He’s one of those actors that can take any character and spin it into gold. Now give him a layered, drunken, asshole who is oddly charming and you got yourself a winner. Though this film is not without its problems, which may deter mainstream audiences, there is no denying Giamatti and his co-stars put in some fantastic work on this film…

The Players:

  • Director: Richard J. Lewis
  • Writers: Mordecai Richler (novel), Michael Konyves (screenplay)
  • Actors: Paul Giamatti, Scott Speedman, Bruce Greenwood, Rosamund Pike, Minnie Driver and Dustin Hoffman
  • Producer: Robert Lantos

The Plot:

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.

The Good:

  • Paul Giamatti: The main, if not only reason to see this film is because you’re a Giamatti fan. Once again he manages to take a mediocre script and make it something worth watching. He plays an over the top, mean drunk, who manages to constantly have a hot woman on his arm and not treat them right, YET he still have that gravitas that makes you side with him and care about him. Oddly charming – seems to be his way! If you’re in need of a good performance he and his co-stars do not disappoint.
  • Supporting Cast: Rosamund Pike may not seem like the right choice for a 50 year-old housewife, but there’s something about her that just works. She’s got a young, youthful side, mixed with these old, wise characteristics that make her fascinating to watch, even when she’s doing very little. Minnie Driver is over and top and though you’ll want to strangle her character you’ll still love to hate her; Dustin Hoffman is an extraordinarily funny drunk, Jewish police officer; Scott Speedman and Bruce Greenwood were both right on the mark for their characters.
  • Characters: It’s nice that all the characters in this film got to have an arch. Often only the leads get to experience any kind of development, but in this film everyone felt so much more real because all of their lives changed in different ways — much like life.
  • Old Hollywood Feel: I mean this in the best possible way, but this is a film that feels like it was made in the 60′s or 70′s. It’s not hurried, it takes it’s time, it uses cliches but yet they don’t feel tired and redundant, and it follows a story. Audiences today aren’t used to sitting down to film like this about the journey of one mans life through good and bad — whether or not they will be willing to do it for this film has yet to be seen.
  • Great Make-Up: No Giamatti did not go method and gain 50 pounds for this film, that’s all make-up and Rosamund Pike did not age 50-years. Normally both those things are dead giveaways in a film that take you out of the experience, but well done Adrien Morot and Rick Glassman, this was some of the best, subtle special effects make-up I’ve seen in a drama yet.

The Bad:

  • Length: Though it’s great that they took their time and added so much richness to the film, in did drag in a number of spots and could have easily been but down in order to appeal to more people. It’s hard to add in so much information into one film, and I see why they wanted to, but the length is a bit of a problem.
  • Never Comes Around: There are a number of plot points that start but are never fully resolved. This may be because of the “true to life” nature of the film, but because they never really add up to anything there is no kind of cathartic release or climax for the audience which leaves you walking out of the theater with rather tepid feelings. After such a long and in depth journey we’re truly invested in these characters and being movie-goers, we need some sort of release in order to be satisfied.
  • Hard Ending: The lack of resolution mixed in with a rather dark ending once again is not very appealing to mainstream audiences.


It’s hard to get excited about a film that you know will leave you somewhat melancholy and dissatisfied walking out of a theaters. There are many good, I’d even say great aspects to it, Giamatti being the best part of it, but sometimes the journey is only as good as it’s end and I’m not sure if all the ends to all the stories were enough to make this film worth seeing.

The Rating: 6.75

Barney’s Version hits theaters January 14th!

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