Barney’s Version

Barney's Version poster
This poster has a British, Hugh Grant movie feel to it, don't you think? Except Paul Giamatti is no Hugh Grant

What is it with Jewish guys and movies in which decidedly average schmucks get together with gorgeous girls? OK, maybe it’s a stretch, seeing I’m basing this accusation purely on Woody Allen, and the movie that I’m reviewing here: Barney’s Version. As you can see from the poster, the eponymous character played by Paul Giamatti somehow manages to get it on with Rachelle Lefevre, Minnie Driver and Rosamund Pike in quick succession.

Well I say quick, but Barney’s Version is more like a biography of Barney Panofsky, based on the book of the same name. It’s not just a slice of life, it’s almost the whole cake, offering an interesting analysis on the trials and tribulations of love, from the perspective of a plump, smarmy, bearded guy.

Barney puts in a performance worthy of his Golden Globe for Best Actor, but I liked Dustin Hoffman as Barney’s dirty old dad more. I have no idea what the big deal is about Lefevre, Driver was great as the sexy-but-bossy wife, and as for Pike – I hate to say it like this – but as hot as she may be, there’s something just not quite right about her face and her voice; like a human version of the Uncanny Valley. She also made for the least believable couple of all three women.

Casting quibbles aside, the source material imbues Barney’s with a strong emotional core, as evidenced by the fact that even though the title character is fairly reprehensible, you still find yourself rooting for him. Apparently the conceit of the book is better, and makes the ending much more meaningful and poignant, so maybe this is one to read rather than to watch.

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