I saw this film advertised on sky and I thought it looked quite good, so I decided to watch it.
Well if I am honest the film has a pretty slow start, so if you do not like to wait to get into the film, then you may turn it off. I on the other hand decided to keep at it, and see how it went.
The film starts off with barney played by Paul Giamatti giving crank calls, then you see him getting drunk in a pub and is hounded by a detective who can not stand him, at first you are wondering why, then he accuses him of getting away with murder.
All of a sudden you are taken back in time, and you can tell that its a younger barney, although it is still played by the same actor. The film I can not go into too much detail with as it will spoil the film, but the basics of it are that you see the run of barneys life, through his career and his love life and his family. Each part of the story tells you how he ended up where he was and what had happened all throughout his life. It tells you about his 3 marriages one of them was played by Minnie Driver while his last marriage was played by Macha Grenon. It also runs through all his friendships, and how each of his friends were to him including their betrayals, which included his best friend Boogie.
The cast who stood out to me
Barney who was played by Paul Giamatti he played a blinding role, of the run up of all his life, how he played his role made you believe it was actually his own life he was reenacting. He was the main star of the film, and he could not have played it any better.
Solange played by Macha Grenon this was barneys 3rd wife, who he was madly in love with. She also played a really good part in the film, and the emotions she showed in the film made it almost real that she felt them.
Boogie played by Scott Speedman well what can I say about him, I have never seen anyone that can play a drunk as well as what he did, he made me chuckle every time I saw him.
The 2nd Mrs p played by Minnie Driver well as you can gather she is a top actress anyway so you know she will play the part well, which she did, but her character was rather annoying, so I found her hard to watch she did play her part well it was just who she played.
Well there was not much special effects in the film, but the make up part of this film was excellent. The characters were played from been young to been quite old and they were played by the same actors, but the aging process in the film really stood out, they looked like they had aged a lot, and it was just like watching the people in it grow old.
My overall opinion
To say this film had a really slow start I did really enjoy it, I would say you need to give this film a good 15-20 minutes to start off, but once it did I really enjoyed watching it. I can not fault the acting or the storylines, it does say that its a comedy, but its much more too, you see barney go through all hius life and what happens to him through it, and all parts that are played are really well acted out. I would recommend this for at least one watch, although I do not think I would watch it again.
Title: Barney's Version
Released: 23rd May 2011
Starring: Paul Giamatti, Minnie Driver, Dustin Hoffman, Rosamund Pike
Director: Richard J. Lewis
Barney's Version is a beautifully observed intelligent film examining the life of Barney Panofsky played by Paul Giamatti. It's a story that looks at Barney over three decades of his life using flashbacks to show us his younger days.
As a person Barney can be kind and caring and romantic but he can also be unexpectedly single-minded, jealous and cruel such as when he leaves the reception of his second wedding to chase another girl. Barney's Version is a poignant and honest look at life with all its highs and lows, covering everything from love to hate and birth to death. It shows how people can get things right but also how they can get things very, very wrong.
Giamatti is an actor that I could watch all day, every day in any sort of film. And this film is very much his own - with him appearing in what must have been virtually every scene. Giamatti has a wonderful personality. He can be charming even when shouting or angry and he can play widely varying roles equally brilliantly, picking up on subtle nuances that other actors might well have missed. He is a fantastic character actor and whilst he is not always the lead character he is invariably the best thing about any film that he is in and that's not to say that many, if any, of the films that he appears in are anything other than good, enjoyable and well written, well directed films.
Bonus features are a bit thin on the ground to say the least with just a special featurette on the making of the film, it's reasonable but I think that fans of the film will expect more.
Barney's Version is expertly directed by Richard J. Lewis who has clearly given Giamatti and the rest of his cast the autonomy to do their own thing resulting in a very organic, real and honest film with exceptional performances.
Rachelle Lefevre, Minnie Driver and Rosamund Pike appear in turn as Barney's three wives and Dustin Hoffman appears as Barney's father. Pike stands out as one of the best supporting actors here but performances are very good across the board.
Despite not being quite what I had expected, maybe even hoped for, I still think that Barney's Version is a must see film. It is a top rate film and although it's not quite perfect, it certainly flirts with brilliance on several occasions and is well worth your consideration.
'Barney's Version' is the story of Barney Panofsky, a very difficult, hot-headed man, who's made many mistakes in his life. Now, at 65 they're all coming back to him like boomerangs. As the movie opens, Barney is making a drunken, middle of the night, nasty phone call to his ex-wife's new husband. From there, the film progresses through flashbacks to reveal over 40 years of Barney's pitfalls and highlights, in a carefully directed and perfectly acted character study that will make you laugh and cry.
On the surface, Barney isn't a very likeable person. He's a chubby, not very good looking, a heavy drinker, foul-mouthed, and sometimes shows more interest in hockey than concern for the things and people around him. However, we can understand him because he's not simply fallible, he's human. More than this, underneath it all, there's something there we can admire - because he's nothing, if he's not consistent. In addition to this, his intelligence and wit make him interesting, and ultimately charming in an off-beat way. Still, there are times when you just want to slap the guy. In short, we get a truly three dimensional character living in a world we can believe is real. All this points to a script that is witty and intelligent and heartwarming to boot.
Bringing all this to the screen may sound like a tall order, and yet it succeeds on almost every level, with a cherry-picked cast. To start, Giamatti (who was just nominated for a Golden Globe for his portrayal here) is absolutely perfect in this role as the guy who you'd never figure would get women as beautiful as he does, but there you have it. Add to this Dustin Hoffman hysterically funny portrayal of Barney's father Izzy who is even brasher than his son, and sometimes downright rude, and you realize that the apple didn't fall all that far from the tree. We also get Minnie Driver as Barney's second wife, doing a lovely job playing a rich "Jewish Princess" who thinks far too highly of herself. Special mention should go to Scott Speedman playing the part of Barney's writer friend Boogie. Scott was in the "Underworld" films but I know him best as the actor who played Ben Covington, one of the love interests in the TV series "Felicity". Speedman brings in a marvelous performance of this drunken druggie who cannot finish his novel, and ends up missing after he sleeps with Barney's 2nd wife. While the Golden Globes ignored this, perhaps the Academy won't, and I'd say Speedman deserves at least one nomination for best actor in a supporting role for this.
There are other elements of this film that make it exceptional. For instance, there are little things such as a scene where Barney's 2nd wife Miriam (Rosamund Pike) sees Barney crying while chopping onions, and tells him he should put them in the freezer to prevent that. Later in the story we see Barney go into the freezer and he sees there one, lone onion. The look on Barney's face when he sees this is extremely revealing and yet, you don't fully understand that look until later on in the film. This is the type of thing that attests to not only an amazing script but also direction from Richard J. Lewis that is controlled and balanced. The only other drawback here is a missing thread to run throughout the film. From what I've been lead to understand, the title of the book this film is based on refers to a cold murder case, and the cop that tries to pin it on Barney his whole life long, and the story is basically Barney's version of what really happened. While this comes into play in the movie, it isn't used in enough places to make us fully understand Barney's motivations for enough of his actions.
In addition, this film is also visually beautiful, set mostly in Montreal, with parts in Rome and New York. Even the soundtrack has significance as songs played were chosen because of their lyrics in order to further the story and not just as background additions. Finally, I can't ignore the way they aged these characters which was so delicately done as to seem totally natural - although I am thinking that Giamatti may have gained/lost weight for some parts of the movie. If not, this was all the more expertly done, since we really feel the age differences on him.
In short, this is one of those movies that you really hope gets much wider screening than just a bunch of film festivals. There's so much to like and little to fault it. The script, with its lone drawback, sparkles with humor and emotion, perfectly cast and carefully directed with all the auxiliary elements bringing everything together into one well-rounded experience. With all that, I will give it four stars out of five and highly recommend it.
Davida Chazan © December, 2010
This isn't yet available on DVD in the UK, and is due to be released in the UK theaters only on January 28, 2011.
However, you can get the book new from Amazon for £5.58 or from their marketplace from £1.50.