A politically incorrect womanizer finds love, loss and understanding in Barney’s Version.
Here we get to experience a fantastic bit of film-making with story telling of the highest caliber. Every so often a film comes along that just reaches out, grabs you and resonates down to your very core. For me this is one of those rarest of jewels. It stars Paul Giamatti as Barney Panofsky. Barney’s a complete mess of a human being. He drinks too much, smokes too much, weighs too much, is endlessly cynical and clearly very self-centered.
The only leap you have to take with the film is in trying to come to grips with how three lovely women ever saw enough in him to actually get married. Obviously Barney’s love life is a bit, shall we say, challenging.
The wives are played perfectly and include wonderful performances from Minnie Driver and Rosamund Pike. Driver’s always been great and here manages to look incredible while evoking one of the more annoying characters of her filmography. Pike is a stunningly beautiful woman and former Bond girl whom we’ve always seen as a blonde. Here’s she’s a brunette and, frankly, the softer look suits her. It’s also a role that lets her prove that’s she much more than a pretty face. Expect to see a lot more of her after this great, seemingly effortless performance.
We also get to see Dustin Hoffman playing Barney’s father and he, of course, nails it. I had been thinking perhaps we’d seen the last of Hoffman’s great talent as many of his recent roles have been entirely forgettable. This one isn’t or, at least, shouldn’t be.
Giamatti again gives us another amazing performance in a seemingly endless string of amazing performances. I’m only fearful that this film will be just as overlooked as his work in Cold Souls.
I really don’t want to say anything more about the film as everyone deserves to experience its allure for themselves. Suffice to say that, at least for me, it felt like the kind of tale one will never forget. It’s so incredibly truthful and realistic (other than the question of how Barney appeals to anyone) that you can’t help but be swept up by its magic.
I became aware that it wasn’t a short film somewhere around the 80 minute mark (it clocks in at 132 minutes) and I didn’t care at all. I never wanted it to end. The story made me think seriously about my own life, the choices I’ve made, and the footprint I’ve left (or haven’t) as well as the people around me. All of that for a two hour investment? That’s hard to beat.