2010 R 134 minutes
I dislike films that live in multiple flashbacks. It is a personal thing, having to do with a short attention span and a faulty memory. I get confused early on when the movie’s action keeps coming unstuck in time and I have trouble enough following the action in a regular linear plot line.
Having said that, I really liked this film, and it was because of the time shifts and not in spite of it.
Barney’s Version is a small film, tiny really, but it has a big heart. It’s a real love story with a twisted ending that is beautifully directed, artfully played and just very well done.
The author of the book the film was adapted from, Mordecai Richler, was a Canadian Jewish author, screenwriter and essayist who passed away before seeing the film project come to fruition. That’s too bad as I think he would have been pleased. The film is by turns, funny, caustic, melancholy, unendurably sad and ultimately honestly uplifting.
The casting of Paul Giamatti as the title role, Barney Panofsky seems unlikely at first but as the film progresses it’s an inspired choice. Giamatti brings just the right amount of goofy sincerity to the role and in the end is just perfect.
Dustin Hoffman as Izzy Panofsky, Barney’s ner’do well father in a largely uncredited role (he’s listed last in the trailer credits) is charming and may the best thing he’s done in years.
Rosamund Pike as Barney’s third wife is note perfect and apparently this film blew up her career bigtime as we will shortly see her in The Sea (pre-production) as Connie Grace 2012, Clash of the Titans 2 (post-production) as Andromeda 2011 and The Big Year (post-production).
But the real star of the show and somewhat of a mystery is how director Richard J. Lewis, whose sole previous film credit is Whale Music (1994) (didn’t see it? It grossed $39k) made the leap from TV (Family Law, The Defenders and a raft of CSI episodes) to this real film, full of heart and nuances not seen in the small screen venue he is used to. You done good, boychik.
Oh yeah, Minnie Driver as the 2nd Mrs. P. is also in the film…
Barney gets Alzheimer’s. It is here in one of the most honest and realistic portrayals of this disease I have ever seen, Giamatti really pulls out all the stops by underplaying with scary accuracy the descent into “the long goodbye” that becomes more common every day. You also, done good, boychik.
There is also this bizarre sub-plot about a murder. Or is it?