DIR: Richard J Lewis • WRI: Michael Konyves • PRO: Robert Lantos • ED: Susan Shipton • CAST: Paul Giamatti, Dustin Hoffman, Rosamund Pike
There’s been a lot of buzz about this movie: Paul Giamatti walked away with a Golden Globe for its titular role, as Barney Panofsky, a cigar-chomping television producer who does everything that any self-respecting, cigar-chomping television producer is supposed to do. Drinking? Check. Cigar-chomping? That’s already been covered. Womanising? Well, there is the small matter of three weddings. But wait, he can explain…
The story flits between present day Montreal and Rome and New York of the 1970s (the ageing effects achieved by Hair and Make-up are excellent and entirely plausible), allowing Barney to give his version of events, such as how he met the love of his life at his own wedding, for example, or became a suspect in his best friend’s disappearance.
There are some solid performances, notably from Rosamund Pike, who gives a subtly sympathetic performance as Miriam, Wife Number Three; while Paul Giamatti is wholly believable as Barney, who sheds the television producer cliché as the movie progresses and becomes a fully three dimensional, likeably-flawed character, although I did feel that some of the later, present day scenes could have done with some judicious editing.
The great strength of Barney’s Version, however, is that it balances an emotionally honest look at regret and mortality with irreverent farce (Dustin Hoffman has a few scene-stealing turns as Barney’s retired cop father, Issy Panofsky).
A touching comedy that manages to inject the indignity of ageing with plenty of laughs. And you’ll find yourself rooting for the rascal by the end.