Film Review: Barney’s Version

Barney Panofsky is sometimes an abhorrent protagonist, but this does not make his story any less interesting. Barney’s Version is an intriguing drama brimmed with great performances.

Barney Panofsky is a hard-drinking television producer, who has led a rather interesting life. Despite only being in love once, Barney has been married three times. His tumultuous life has provided moments of happiness and regret…

Told through a series of flashbacks, Barney’s Version focuses on the significant events of the protagonist’s adult life. These are dominated by Barney’s three marriages, but also feature his relationship with family and friends. Richard J. Lewis directs Barney’s Version with equanimity. The film spends sufficient time exploring Barney’s character, yet never feels stagnant.

Barney’s Version effectively combines drama with comedy and romance, as well as a rather intriguing mystery. This amalgamation of genres allows the audience to experience an array of emotions, much like Barney himself. The film seems to slide effortlessly from comedy to drama, thanks to Michael Konyves screenplay, based on Mordecai Richler’s novel.

Barney Panofsky is not the average movie protagonist. For starters, he is not conventionally attractive, yet manages to attract beautiful women. He has his vices, yet has also carved out a successful career for himself. He acts rashly and incomprehensibly, yet is still loved by his wife. For the numerous mistakes Barney makes, he also elicits sympathy and laughter.

Barney’s Version‘s supporting characters are as well developed as the protagonist. Miriam may love Barney regardless of his flaws, but she is initially wary of his intentions, understandably so. Miriam is perhaps character most identified with in the film, sharing with the audience a dubiousness about the central character. Barney’s father Izzy is depicted as having similar flaws as his son. Nevertheless, Izzy seems to have a greater appreciation of family not fully realised by his son. It is through these characters that both the best and worst of Barney’s persona is revealed.

Paul Giamatti gives one of his finest performances as Barney. He is thoroughly convincing as the title character, and excellent in exuding both humour and sadness. Rosamund Pike is perfect as the soft-spoken Miriam, while Minnie Driver is feisty as the second Mrs Panofsky. Dustin Hoffman brings empathy and fragility as Izzy, and Scott Speedman is bright as Boogie.

The makeup department have done excellent work in Barney’s Version. Despite the film covering a period longer than thiry years, Barney and Miriam are always believable in their appearance.  Pasquale Catalano’s beautiful score is utilised effectively in the film.

Barney’s Version is a well-executed film, with Lewis getting the best out of his cast. A highly recommended film.