Barney's Version (15)

Film image

The ViewBirmingham Review

StarStarStarStarNo Star
Review byMatthew Turner27/01/2011

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 132 mins

Enjoyable, emotionally engaging and darkly funny comedy drama with a sharply written script and terrific performances from a superb ensemble cast.

What's it all about?
Directed by Richard J Lewis, Barney's Version is based on the novel by Mordecai Richler and stars Paul Giamatti as grouchy Jewish TV producer Barney Panofsky, who looks back over his event-filled life and its three marriages as his memory begins to deteriorate. Barney's first marriage is to neurotic, insecure Clara (Rachel Lefevre) in 1970s Rome, which ends abruptly when it turns out she's pregnant with his friend's baby; his second marriage to Jewish princess Minnie Driver collapses just as quickly, not least because he meets third wife-to-be Miriam (Rosamund Pike) at the reception of his own wedding.

Meanwhile, in the present, Barney struggles with the day-to-day realities of his divorce from Miriam (with whom he is obviously still in love) and is haunted by a detective (Mark Addy) who's convinced that Barney murdered his best friend (Scott Speedman) back in the 1980s, after he discovered he had been sleeping with his wife.

The Good
Paul Giamatti is terrific as Barney, managing to keep the character gruffly likeable throughout, even when he behaves like an utter bastard. Rosamund Pike is equally good, delivering perhaps her best performance to date as Miriam, while there's terrific comic support from Dustin Hoffman as Barney's wildly inappropriate father and Minnie Driver continues her run of wonderful supporting roles with a delightful turn as The Second Mrs P.

The Great
To be fair, there isn't much of an actual plot to speak of – the murder mystery is all but ignored, for example – and the story steers clear of the book's portrait of Barney as a possibly unreliable, Alzheimer's-influenced narrator. Instead, this is very much an engaging character study, exploring familiar ideas of family, friendship, loyalty and betrayal through the eyes of a not entirely sympathetic but always likeable lead character.

Lewis orchestrates a number of terrific scenes, most notably the entire second wedding sequence, culminating in a wonderful dash-to-the-station scene that adds a delightfully knowing twist to that tried-and-trusted romcom staple. Praise is also due to the make-up department, who work miracles on both Giamatti and Pike without resorting to any of that prosthetic nonsense.

Worth seeing?
Barney’s Version is an entertaining, darkly funny and ultimately moving comedy-drama with a superb script, a wonderful supporting cast and an award-winning central performance from Paul Giamatti. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

Barney's Version (15)
Be the first to review Barney's Version...
image
01 Focus (15)

Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Rodrigo Santoro

image
02 Selma (12A)

David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tim Roth

image
03 Far from the Madding Crowd (tbc)

Carey Mulligan, Tom Sturridge, Matthias Schoenaert...

image
04 Chappie (tbc)

Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Sharlto Copley

image
05 A Most Violent Year (15)

Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo

Content updated: 24/10/2017 08:46

Latest Film Reviews

Film Blog

Urban Pundit

Keep up to date with everything in film and cinema at Urban Pundit, the exciting new blog.

Film of the Week

The Conjuring (15)

Hugely enjoyable, genuinely scary horror flick that provides a welcome throwback to classic 1970s chillers, thanks to impeccable production design, a superb script, powerfully atmospheric direction, intense set-pieces and terrific performances.

Latest Close Up

Noah Baumbach Interview

The Frances Ha director discusses co-writing the script with Greta Gerwig, shooting against the backdrop of New York and the real lives of the city’s people, Greta Gerwig’s performance, the music in the film and the picture's visual style.