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Sep 2010
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Certain films should just be enjoyed. No, let me put it another way: there are films that only want to be loved. Such is Barney’s Version, an adaptation of Mordechai Richler’s book starring Paul Giamatti. It is a film that desperately wants to loved and attempts just about everything to succeed in the task.

The film revolves around Barney, a TV producer with quite a few personal problems, as his life is chronicled beginning with his first marriage and up to his last days. The plot jumps back and forth in time in a manner reminiscent of 1982′s The World According to Garp. Barney’s Version is a reasonably moving and not unfunny film. It is visually inviting and the actors all do a solid job. Other than its excessive length, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t lay the critical half of your brain to rest, and let Barney and co take you for a safe ride.

Giamatti is impressive as ever, yet those who saw him depict lovable yet damaged character with yet greater brilliance in American Splendor and Sideways will experience déjà vu. Dustin Hoffman provides a number of magic moments as Barney’s father, and Minnie Driver and Scott Speedman make for a strong supporting cast. Yet best of all is Rosamund Pike. Since her wonderful role in An Education last year, I’m craving to see her in a big and meaningful role. Here she gets this opportunity and seizes it with both her hands.

Barney’s Version does a good job within the strictly limited scope it set for itself: a funny, emotional, well-made drama that does not leave a profound impression, but does provide quite a few lovable moments.

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