The Flick Chicks

Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Barney's Version

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3_Chicks_Small  Judy Thorburn

judy-thorburn-editor
Las Vegas Round The Clock - www.lasvegasroundtheclock.com
Women's Film Critic Circle - www.wfcc.wordpress.com
Nevada Film Critics Society - www.nevadafilmcriticssociety.org
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The Illusionist

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Barney's Version

Based on the late writer Mordecai Richler’s 1997 novel of the same name, Barney's Version, directed by Richard J. Lewis (TV's “The Defenders,” “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”) follows the adult life of one unlikeable, ungrateful man who didn't know how to appreciate what he had.

Paul Giamatti, who has almost made a career out of portraying lovable louts, fills the shoes of the title character, Barney Panofsky, a Montreal based Jewish producer of shlocky TV shows who recounts his life in flashbacks that span nearly four decades, from the 70's to the present.

Told from his point of view without any voice overs that would have at least given us a better insight into his psyche and what makes him tick, the story takes us through each of Barney's marriages with emphasis on the third, his last marriage to the woman of his dreams.

The first bride whom he meets and beds in Rome circa 1975 is a troubled, red haired beauty named Cara (Rachelle LeFevre) who, in a pregnant state, ropes Barney into wedlock witnessed by his bohemian buddies, including handsome writer, Boogie (Scott Speedman) and artist Leo (Thomas Trabacchi). A subplot involves the mysterious disappearance of Boogie later in the story and the cop who is obsessed with the belief that Barney murdered him.

After tragedy surrounding wife number one strikes, Barney moves back to Montreal where he meets and marries the second Mrs. P (a fiesty, Minnie Driver), a curvy, talkative Jewish princess whom he cares little about and treats with disrespect. Soon after he proclaim “I do” , Barney catches a glimpse of Miriam (the lovely Rosamund Pike, wearing a brown wig, in an understated, strong performance) at his own wedding reception. So what does he do? Leaving his new wife on their wedding night, Barney begins his pursuit of Miriam, running alongside her train car, just as it leaves for New York. After sending her weekly roses, getting a divorce, and finally marrying the patient, almost saintly Miriam who gives up here career as a radio host to stay home and raise their two children, Barney eventually manages to find a way to screw up the best thing that ever happened to him.

It is evident that Barney is a despicable, self centered, selfish cad. He is not good looking (make that homely), overweight, smokes cigars, drinks and spends too much time at the bar watching hockey games. So the burning question is, what does his beautiful wives, or any smart woman for that matter, see or find appealing in this guy.

By the the time we see the ravaging effects of Alzheimers, it is hard to feel sorry or pity for Barney and the life he created for himself as a result of his own actions.

The foreign press loved Giamatti's performance so much they awarded him the Golden Globe for best actor in a comedy or musical (which I think is misleading, since it is neither).

The excellent supporting cast includes Dustin Hoffman as Barney's dad, Izzy, a skirt chasing, retired cop with some of the best lines in the film. Hoffman's real life son Jake is impressive as Barney's grown son Michael, who knows the reason behind his parents break up and says it like it is when he calls his Dad, “a miserable, ungrateful prick”. And, for those who pay close attention to even minor characters, check out Canadian directors Atom Egoyan, David Cronenberg and Denys Arcand who can be seen in quick cameo roles.

I haven't read the well received book, but I have been told there is a lot lost in the screen adaptation. That's a shame because I can only review what was presented on screen. Like Barney, this version leaves a lot to be desired.