Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Barney's Version (DVD Review)

DVD Review of the Genie winning film Barney's Version, starring Paul Giamatti based on the Mordecai Richler

Image: Courtesy of eOne Films

Dir: Richard J. Lewis (Whale Music)
Cast: Paul Giamatti, Rosamund Pike, Minnie Driver, Scott Speedman, Rachelle Lefevre, Dustin Hoffman, Bruce Greenwood
Canada/Italy, 2010

Reason to see: One of the big heavy hitting Canadian films from 2010 and winner of 7 Genies.

Barney's Version follows the story of Barney Panofsky, played by Paul Giamatti, who over the years has many great friendships, falls in and out of love and also has a few tragedies along the way. His life Based on the novel by Mordecai Richler of the same name, you can certainly feel the love of the story and characters run strong in the film, with the care taken to create rich settings at every turn from bars to television studios to cottage homes on top of several weddings from simple to all the bells and whistles.

I knew going in to the film that it was going to be focused on Barney (from the title), but when I saw the trailers I didn't really connect to him and seeing the film and was primarily because it's Canadian and it did well, and I like to be on the up and up of Canadian film as much as I can. Even though I didn't always agree with Barney's actions along the way, I found myself very surprized to empathize with him at almost every turn. He doesn't have the hardest life or the easiest life, but it certainly throws him more than a few curve balls along the way and he really tries to deal with them as gracefully as he can. It's no surprize that Paul Giammati has won awards for his performance here, as he gives us depth and range and he makes Barney as hard to hate as he is easy to love.

As the film is a winner of 7 Genies, including 3 in acting categories of Paul Giammati (Actor in a Leading Role), and both supporting acting categories (awarded to Dustin Hoffman & Minnie Driver), it does sometimes make me a bit miffy when big Canadian films have non-Canadian in all the big roles. They are great performances though so I can't, and won't, fault them or the film because it really hits all the right marks. I will say in addition to the acting awards it won, I would also give big kudos to Scott Speedman who gives an absolutely fantastic performance as Barney's friend Boogie, and was easily one of the highlights of the film for me. Rosamund Pike is also wonderful as the calm, cool and collected Miriam, who Barney is taken with at first sight.

It's a drama that works it's magic over the test of time, following Barney through thick and thin. While watching I was impressed when it got me, which was more often than I had imagined but for the praise not as much as I hoped. I think keeners of dramas with longevity characters will definitely get a lot from it.

DVD Extras:
  • Feature Commentary with director Richard J. Lewis, writer Michael Konyves and producer Robert Lantos Wow, you can really feel the love for the story and the cast as they discuss the film and reminisce over casual in jokes, the process, Canadian-isms, the meta-level of several of the references, changes from the book to the film, iconic things about the Barney character, shooting on location, the transitions in time throughout the film, the actors, musical themes, cameos, shooting on location in Montreal and Italy, the make up research for the characters, the importance of capturing Montreal at the time in which the film is set, and changes, different version and choices about the film along the way. The commentary starts with director Richard J. Lewis & writer Michael Konyves, and producer Robert Lantos comes in at about 24 minutes.
  • Interview with Mordecai Richler (3 minutes) discussion about the novel Barney's Version, the first person nature of the novel, shared point of view and differences between him and the character of Barney and also includes reading of excepts of the novel.
  • Deleted Scenes (9 scenes, 27 minutes) combination of extended & deleted scenes, mostly conversational and most deepening relationships with Barney and other characters in the film as well as more insight into Barney himself. I quite enjoyed the scenes with Paul Giamatti and Rachelle Lefevre and a couple of great additional scenes with Rosamund Pike & Bruce Greenwood.
  • 92nd Street Y Q&A with Paul Giamatti & Annette Insdorf (61 minutes) Q&A really in depth Q&A included here which goes over a lot of discussion about the film and the role, how he became involved with the project, on if he had any reservations on the role, the character of Barney, the draw to the role, what it was like playing a character that ages throughout the film as well as questions from the live audience.
  • On the Red Carpet (4 minutes) on the red carpet with director Richard J. Lewis, producer Robert Lantos, actors Paul Giamatti, Dustin Hoffman, Minnie Driver, Jake Hoffman and AFI Fest director Jacqueline Lyanga discussing the draw of the film, what the film is about, casting, working together and believing in love at first sight, true love and craziest thing they have done for love.
Barney's Version is available on DVD and BluRay as of June 28, 2011. Check it out over at Amazon.ca (DVD) & Amazon.com (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)

Shannon's Overall View:
I didn't love it
It's not likely I'd watch it again
I'd recommend it fans of character-driven dramas that focus on the depth of one person over time

Return to Film Reviews or see more DVD Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

Scott Speedman,Paul Giamatti, Rachelle Lefevre in BARNEY'S VERISON Photo Credit Sabrina Lantos Courtesy of eOne Films

Paul Giamatti and Minnie Driver in BARNEY'S VERSION Photo Credit Takashi Seida Courtesy of eOne Films

Rosamund Pike and Paul Giamatti in BARNEY'S VERSION Courtesy of Sabrina Lantos Courtesy of eOne Films

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