Barney’s version is a small, independent movie about a man named Barney Panofsky who never seems to appreciate that he can be happy. He is always looking for some illusive dream well beyond his reach instead of enjoying the little things in life that he already has.
And so it happens that on the day of his second wedding he meets the woman of his life. The question the movie puts forward is: ‘Is it possible for an insecure man who’s life is lingering with doubts to find his piece in life?’ It takes more than two hours before the viewer is introduced to something that resembles an answer to that question, but luckily enough, the end of the movie ties things up nicely.
The way the movie was made is cultivated and modest, sometimes even a tad poetic, but it never merits your full attention. In a way this is not a bad thing. It allows you to enjoy the ever-so-beautiful atmosphere the movie displays.
Most of the movie takes place in ancient-old streets and fairy squares of Montréal and Rome. It’s such a soothing atmosphere that at times it feels like you’re really there. The movie lets you dream away in the typical, classic and most especially picturesque ambiance of a European city.
But that’s as far as the beauty goes. Most of the movie is a downer.
The storyline is enough to put an Insomnia-patient to sleep. Strangely though, because there is enough talent in the movie, both before and behind the camera.
Most of the heartwarming moments are delivered by character actor Dustin Hoffman, who stars as the Jewish father of the tormented main character. The former Rainman repeats his role as protective father figure of Meet the Fockers, but this time there is no frolicking, no subtle sex jokes and absolutely no fooling around. What is present, is a layer of human depth and a darker shade of grey, as this is a social drama and no Hollywood tongue-in-cheek comedy.
Speaking of which, Scott Speedman tries his best to jazz up the dramatic story with a twist of humor by playing the role of the drunken, cocaine-sniffing best friend. The actor is hardly a famous face, but he still manages to save face. In a few short scenes he is quite amusing …
The one who has to keep the boat afloat is Paul Giamatti.
The actor is most famous as Russell Crowe’s personal trainer in the rather sweet boxing picture Cinderella man. In this particular movie Giamatti does what is expected from him, but nothing more. Problem is that his role in this movie shows too many similarities with that other character of his – Miles from Sideways (which is by the way a far, far better movie). Because of that, you might experience a serious lacking of originality …
did you know?
Jake Hoffman plays Dustin Hoffman’s grandson. In real life he’s his son.
Give it to me straight:
Barney’s version pretends to be some first-class manual to the choices we are bound to make in life and the consequences – and due to that premise you’d think this is a heavy-load drama – but the end result is still quite enjoyable.
Pity however that the story from time to time loses focus and the acting performance of main actor Paul Giamatti is nothing short of a faint replica of a previous character he played in his career. The rest of the cast is quite okay, but never more than that.
The one thing that saves this movie is the atmosphere of a beautiful, pictoresque European city which plays just as much an important character in the movie than the main actors running aroudn or standing absolutely still saying some stupid boring lines that seem to go nowhere!