Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Barney's Version

"Barney's Version" is another helping from novelist Mordecai Richler and directed by Richard Lewis about an imperfect person that had the perfect life with one problem, he was a miserable and ungrateful prick that needed to stop feeling sorry for himself to realize it. This is easily the best film from Richard Lewis as his previous work was mostly on TV.

The film is an autobiography of Barney Panofsky (Paul Giamatti) recounting his life from his perspective. While he is an imperfect person, the people around him don't always help him be happy until he finally meets the mother of his children, Miriam (Rosamund Pike). However, before he can be happy he must go through the pains of two previous marriages to Clara Charnofsky (Rachelle Lefevre) and the 2nd Mrs. Panofsky (Minnie Driver) who each have unique problems for Barney to deal with. His friends don't exactly help him with his happiness either, but his father Izzy (Dustin Hoffman) provides amazing paternal wisdom about marriage.

They mystery of the film is the disappearance of Barney's best friend Boogie (Scott Speedman) that lead to the divorce between Barney and his 2nd wife. Though there is no body, police suspect murder, and Barney himself is tried but acquitted of murder.
The film doesn't focus on the trial, but rather has Barney moving to New York to start a relationship with Miriam and start the family that he dreamed about and finally find happiness. The film disguises itself as a romantic story, but is an honest depiction of the effects of Alzheimer's Disease and the impact on the loved ones around them.

Paul Giamatti is perfectly annoying and inappropriate as Barney, but equally charming and endearing reminiscent of his performance in "Sideways" (2004). The performance is difficult as it spans more than 30 years of Barney's life. This can be difficult to accomplish for some actors, but Paul Giamatti, Dustin Hoffman and Rosamund Pike are the perfect canvas for the make-up artists. Other films take an approach of putting glasses, facial hair or simply fattening up the actor to show the passing of time. However, the superb character acting combined with the make-up artists vision contribute to a very believable.

The book written by Mordecai Richler was also the inspiration for a song written by Craig Cardiff that is about forgetting.

The film never received the attention it deserved in the theaters and was only nominated for the Academy Award for makeup. While the makeup is impressive the performances are much more deserving and worthy of being viewed by all. Paul Giamatti deserved a nomination for Best Actor for this performance and continues to be one of the must under-rated leading men. This is a legitimate 5 Quack film that everyone should add to the top of their list.

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