Barney’s Version (2011)

Directed by Richard J. Lewis
Written by Michael Konyves

Paul Giamatti is a fine actor who has been recognized by various awards and such. I think what attracts me most to his work is his ability to be charming, funny, and dramatic all the while also being fat and hairy. Seriously, the man is funny and emotes so well on screen, but part of why he is interesting to me is that he is not a pretty boy like a George Clooney or Brad Pitt. He is an every man with a sense of humor and I like that. In his new film, Barney’s Version, he plays a character who drinks too much, smokes too much, is probably inappropriate and still somehow is “charming and endearing” and has a great heart. Giamatti is a great actor and he is not the only good thing about this film.

The structure of the film is strange. It starts in the present, then gives flashback of the Barney’s life, all the while jumping back to the present and moving forward in that world as well. It is never really confusing, it just comes off as a little off. So Barney is older now, reminiscing about his three weddings and how he came to meet the love of his life. The film tries to keep some things mysterious, but does a poor job masking the mystery, it should have been more straightforward. But basically we have Barney and the love of his life, Miriam. It is Barney’s version of how they fell in love and how things don’t always seem to work out in life, for one reason or another.

The relationship between Barney and Miriam, played beautifully by Rosamund Pike, is extremely sweet and honestly, I was sold on it from the word go. They meet at Barney’s second wedding oddly enough, but that doesn’t stop him pursuing her. Like I said, he drinks too much, smokes too much, but there is something about him that is sweet and lovable, and Miriam falls for it too. I think it is the fact that she shouldn’t have fallen for him that I bought into the fact that she did. It really is worth it just to see these two on screen and their relationship because it is fantastic.

The film has a few very nice moments between the two, but I think what kept it from being great was that there was too much going on. Miriam once remarks that you have be happy with the mundane and the routine, yet director Richard J. Lewis constructs his movie around all major moments and the only thing that shines through are the too few small moments. The film is based on a book and maybe there is just too much going on because of it, but the film fails in the major moments because it has no sense of mood. I think it would have been better suited if the film decided to focus on only some of what was presented, allowing more time to dwell on things an spend time with the characters in these moments that are fantastically conceived yet poorly executed. It is a sweet movie and Giamatti and Pike shine, but it felt bloated and lacking in the amount of heart a story like this deserves.

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