When telling a person's life story, there are several different versions, depending on who tells the story. In our own versions, we may gloss over certain events and leave others out completely, which is just what Barney Panofsky did in the film Barney's Version.
Barney's Version tells the story of Barney's life over three decades and three wives. Barney is a politically incorrect, brash, curmudgeon of a man who drinks too much and has an unhealthy obsession with hockey. His story begins when he marries a free-spirited girl (Rachelle Lefevre) who soon after kills herself. He then marries a well-to-do momma's girl (Minnie Driver) and at their wedding meets Miriam (Rosamund Pike), his third wife and the mother of his children.
As evident in his previous roles as Harvey Pekar in American Splendor and Miles in Sideways, Giamatti thrives playing awkward yet charming characters, which makes him the perfect fit for Barney. I couldn't possibly imagine anyone else in the role of Barney, and Giamatti brings a certain kind of sweetness to the character, which other actors might not have been able to pull off.
Barney's biography comes as a retort to the story pieced together by a detective who has accused Barney of murdering his best friend. Given the fact that viewers are introduced to Barney as someone who potentially has gotten away with murder, the viewer would expect the incident and the repercussions to occupy a larger role in the film and in Barney's life. One may wonder how Barney's love and professional lives march on with a looming murder accusation, something that never really gets fleshed out.
Overall, Barney's Version told the story of a rather unremarkable man's life in a remarkable way. The entire cast shined like the stars they are, especially Giamatti, who made someone who seems completely unlovable, quite loveable. Just as in the stories of each of our own lives, there are good times and bad, and Barney's Version nearly brought me to tears when all was said and done.
Directed by Richard J. Lewis
Starring Paul Giamatti,