BARNEY’S VERSION Sunday 08 January, 2012

Paul Giamatti gives us his version of Barney’s Version.

Barney’s Version is the film version of Mordechai Richler’s 1997 novel and tells the tale of Barney Panofsky’s life. Through successes, marriages and disaster to the tragedy of alzheimer’s.

First things first. There is a plot device in this movie that is very similar to a plot point in Magnolia (which is one of my favourite films). I would imagine that this happens in the book and therefore Magnolia got to it second. The thing is Magnolia brought it, via the screen, to my mind first. This took the shine off of my enjoyment of this film. I know it shouldn’t but it did. You might be thining that this is churlish of me but this is such an unusual thing that it seems strange that it should be presented a second time as quirky and incredible. Anyway, maybe you haven’t seen Magnolia and it won’t bother you.

The main thing that we glean from this film is that Barney is an arsehole. According to the oracle (Wikipedia) the book has Barney’s version followed by amendments made by his son. There are no such amendments in this film. Without that device it becomes a straight run through the events of this man’s life.

Paul Giamatti is typically enjoyable and is ably supported by a decent cast. Rosamund Pike is gorgeous as the love of Barney’s life. Also, look out for Mark ‘got me clubcard’ Addy as a frustrated detective. Barney is a TV producer and seems to be producing a show about a mountie (the film is set in Canada). What’s weird is that the mountie in the show seems to be being played by Paul Gross. Paul Gross, as the older among you may remember, is the man who played Constable Benton Fraser in (the brilliant…according to my memory anyway) Due South. This had me wondering if Barney were actually based on a real person. I don’t think it is although I think Mordechai Richler may have borrowed events from his own life (he worked in TV and met his wife in similar fashion).

It’s an enjoyable enough leaf through a life but not much more than that. It’s well acted and well made but not really offering enough to warrant repeat viewings. Having said that I wouldn’t be unhappy to watch it again some day.

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