- Running time:
- 132 minutes
- Paul Giamatti -
- Rosamund Pike -
- Minnie Driver -
- 2nd Mrs. P
- Rachelle Lefevre -
- Scott Speedman -
Cantankerous, cigar-chomping Canadian TV producer Barney Panofsky (Paul Giamatti) reflects on the major relationships of his life, including his true love (Rosamund Pike)—who he met immediately after marrying his second wife (Minnie Driver)—colorful father (Dustin Hoffman) and irresponsible best friend (Scott Speedman).
The buzz: Almost as soon as Mordecai Richler (the Canadian author of “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz” and the “Jacob Two-Two” children’s series) published “Barney’s Version” in 1997, the effort began to turn it into a movie. Richler passed away in 2001, but producer Robert Lantos has finally succeeded with the help of director Richard J. Lewis (a producer and director on “CSI”).
The verdict: Different book, same story. Trying to transfer a sprawling narrative defined by a character’s unique voice to the screen is a task that’s defeated better filmmakers than Lewis, and this version of “Barney’s Version” has a difficult time convincing it was worth the effort. Giamatti brings his A-game but the loveable jackass role feels like a shadow of his best screen work—it’s never really clear why Barney merits being at the center of a film. As the movie shuffles through the highs and lows of his life, complete with a ridiculous murder investigation subplot and a grossly sentimental finish, we’re left to ponder why Hoffman signed on to play an underdeveloped wisecracker, why Driver can’t find better outlets for her broad comedic stylings (perhaps a series deal with Showtime?) and why Pike is so frequently relegated to window-dressing when her emotional register is clearly capable of more. The actors are the whole show here, trapped in characters never really worth their time, or ours.
Did you know? “Barney’s Version” made some headlines before filming began when Rachelle Lefevre was dropped from her ongoing role of Victoria in the “Twilight” series due to her commitment to a small role as Barney’s first wife in this film.
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