Based on Mordecai Richler’s novel comes ‘Barney’s Version’, the warm, wise, and witty story of Barney Panofsky, a seemingly ordinary man who lives an extraordinary life. A candid confessional, told entirely from Barney’s point of view, taking us through the many highs, and lows of his colourful life involving murky entrepreneurial schemes that lead to his success, three marriages, and the mysterious disappearance of his best friend.
Director Richard J. Lewis after working on a number of different TV series brings us the feature film ‘Barney’s Version’, telling the tale of character Barney Panofsky’s dramatic and full if not controversial life.
Set over the course of a number of decades the film is a thorough exploration of the character Barney and it pays great attention to details in portraying his varying attitudes and habits that are influenced by the events of his life, this film hinges of the level of interest the audience takes in this character and while he’s certainly not likeably at times, he does make for a compelling character study.
Many of the events that unfold in Barney’s life feel at times brutally real, the film portrays many of the joys of life however with that comes many of life’s challenges as well as the consequences of certain decisions, all of which adds to the drama of the material giving it a strong sense of emotion.
The performance delivered by Paul Giamatti is critical to this film’s success and he really does the material credit, it’s not often we see him in a leading role and here he can see him showcase his talents as he becomes this character and is able to work with the quirky comedic moments as well as the more compelling dramatic material in this film. With strong acting across the cast other performances specifically worthy of noting include Scott Speedman’s, it’s great to see him deliver in a more dramatic role and Minnie Driver who provides a strong screen presence.
Given the film takes place over such a long period of time it is important for the integrity of the story that the characters are aged to show their different stages in life convincingly and “Barney’s Version” does an outstanding job of this. Portraying events from the characters youth to their twilight years in some cases suffering from certain afflictions the characters are presented an entirely convincing manner.
In terms of the length of the film, for something that is generally slowly paced throughout, it slightly over stays it welcome, wanting to give a full account of various aspects there are probably a couple of missed opportunities where the story could have wrapped up in a suitable manner, however the film elects to take some extra time keeping Barney on screen until his story is complete.
In its entirety ‘Barney’s Version’s is a dramatic tale full of strong performances, compelling material and genuinely heartfelt, and moving moments. It is not a light hearted film, though it has some comedic moments, the film delivers something with real substance.
‘Barney’s Version’ is released in cinemas around Australia from 24 March 2011, I’m giving it 3.5/5 stars.