Barney's Version review

Giamatti won the Best Actor (Comedy or Musical) at this year's Golden Globes for his role in Barney's Version and, if you ask me, it was thoroughly deserved. He's on top form in this tragi-comedy looking back over the main events of a man's life. In fact I don't think he's been this good since Sideways (when he was woefully overlooked by the Oscars). His Barney is a schlubby guy who somehow seems to attract women that are far too good for him.

Barney Panofsky, a succesful Canadian TV producer, finds himself alone with only his cigars and scotch for comfort. What's led him to this place? Over the course of the film we look back at events through Barney's eyes. Now this might not always be the truth about what happened, but remember this is Barney's Version. The story starts out in Rome in the 70s as Barney marries his first wife, the unstable Clara (Lefevre). Unsurprisingly the marriage is doomed, but it gives us a glimpse of Barney's other key relationship, his best friend Boogie (Speedman). The story moves on to Barney meeting, and marrying, wife number two (Driver – helpfully listed on IMDB as the second Mrs P). It's at his wedding reception that Barney meets the love of his life, Miriam (Pike). Thrown into the mix is Barney's dad, played with joy and ease by an irrascible Hoffman.

So as the story unfolds over 40 years, there are moments of humour, sadness and a murder-mystery all thrown into the mix. The decision of the audience at the end is how much of this is actually Barney's own fault? I have my own feelings, but I leave you to make up your mind. This is an interesting film that throws up interesting questions. It's a grown-ups film that deals with grown-up themes. And, most of all, it's a film that allows its actors the room to grown in their roles and show what damn fine actors they are.

Barney's Version at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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