|Still from Barney`s Version|
With tons of buzz surrounding Richard J. Lewis' Barney's Version, an adaptation of the Mordecai Richler Novel, I can say with certainty that it delivers big. Driven by a remarkable performance from the always-excellent Paul Giamatti as unlikely rule-breaking hero Barney Panofsky, much of the Film is set in Montreal where the Television Producer finds a deep and passionate love with Miriam (Rosamund Pike) after two failed marriages with Clara (Rachelle Lefevre) and Mrs. P (Minnie Driver).
Life according to Barney is all-or-nothing, resulting in many highs and lows. It is this philosophy which sees him getting his heart broken with two of his Best Friends (one whom he is accused of murdering - Boogie played by Scott Speedman) having affairs with both of his ex-Wives. It is also his impulsiveness which leads him to pursue the eventual love his life Miriam on the very night of his second wedding (to Driver`s character). And he does score big, finding many years of happiness with Miriam after finally winning her heart. As he ages and his memory begins to fail him with the onset of Alzheimer`s Disease, will Barney`s impulsiveness get the best of him and lead to his demise?
Despite being incredibly long at approximately 135 minutes, Lewis covers a lot of ground here in what culminates as an emotionally satisfying, cathartic conclusion where without a doubt we find ourselves on Barney`s side, despite his many mistakes and unlikable traits. Giamatti is perfect from start to finish, evoking invincibility in Barney`s prime all the way to his darkest hour where he finds those whom he loves most leaving his side. Pike is wonderful and this role is no exception where she convincingly ages Miriam over three decades, yet always maintaining her gentle poise. Dustin Hoffman as Barney`s ex-Cop Father Izzy also is superb - lovable in his carefree perspective on life, yet startlingly commanding in one scene where he takes full control when his Son is threatened. Driver despite not getting much screen time is a Scene Stealer as is Speedman, believable as a man of many vices.
Barney`s Version is an incredible story perhaps with some truths to be told about action and consequence. Even though might it not present much instant appeal to younger audiences, the messages are universal here and if all else fails, there is Giamatti who eclipses his career best achieved in 2004`s Sideways. The Film, released through Summit Entertainment is now in theatres. Grade: A