Barney’s Version

Year: 2011
Production Co: Serendipity Point Films
Director: Richard L Lewis
Writer: Michael Konyves
Cast: Paul Giamatti, Minnie Driver, Scott Speedman, Rosamund Pike, Dustin Hoffman, Saul Rubinek

I don't really remember what made me want to watch this film or what I expected, but it turned out to be a sweeping drama that does a great job capturing the whole life of a man just like The World According to Garp.

Paul Giamatti is Barney, a Canadian Jewish TV producer who's as grizzled as he is cynical when we meet him as a man edging out of middle age into his twilight years.

Through a series of long flashbacks, we're shown no more or less than his whole adult life with the loves, passions and career that defined him. I don't think the movie was trying to be anything more than is was, just a man's story.

Giamatti is perfectly cast as the sarcastic but ultimately romantic soul, a modern Woody Allen in his pursuit of the girl he dreams about. Even after marrying the Jewish princess (Driver) who talks his ear off and makes life close to hell, he never forgets the winsome Miriam (Pike), who he falls in love with at first sight at his own wedding.

Over the ensuing years he sends Miriam flowers and professes his love for her despite her gentle protestations, and when he can finally end his marriage to his wife (his second, actually, following a coda that starts his story as a literary type in Rome, married to a slightly crazed Bohemian type), he goes after her with gusto, winning her heart.

The common thread in it all is his writer friend (Spedman), whom it seems Barney never quite trusts or even likes. Their relationship was a little bit hard to figure out and the version referred to in the title has to do with an unfortunate incident between them at a lake house involving a gun, drinking, and one of those planes that scoops water up to dump on forest fires.

But that's only one chapter in a very rich life full of work, love and loss. Hoffman is acerbically brilliant as Barney's cop father Izzy. Barney's Version starts to feel long but you're never less than interested, and as Barney's life winds down it becomes quite profound, reminding you that even if we never achieve greatness in our lives, we affect a lot of people.

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