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Generally favorable reviews - based on 33 Critics What's this?

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6.5

Generally favorable reviews- based on 47 Ratings

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  • Summary: Barney's Version is the story of Barney Panofsky, a seemingly ordinary man who lives an extraordinary life. A candid confessional, told from Barney‘s point of view, the film spans three decades and two continents, taking us through the different acts of his unusual history. There is his first wife, Clara, a flame-haired, flagrantly unfaithful free sprit with whom Barney briefly lives la vie de Boheme in Rome. The Second Mrs. P. is a wealthy Jewish Princess who shops and talks incessantly, barely noticing that Barney is not listening. And it is at their lavish wedding that Barney meets, and starts pursuing, Miriam, his third wife, the mother of his two children, and his true love. With his father, Izzy as his sidekick, Barney takes us through the many highs, and a few too many lows, of his long and colorful life. Not only does Barney turn out to be a true romantic, he is also capable of all kinds of sneaky acts of gallantry, generosity, and goodness when we – and he – least expect it. His is a gloriously full life, played out on a grand scale. And, at its center stands an unlikely hero – the unforgettable Barney Panofsky.(Sony Picture Classics)

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Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 28 out of 33
  2. Negative: 1 out of 33
  1. Reviewed by: Mike Scott
    Feb 18, 2011
    88
    That character flaw makes for some great shock-fueled laughs in Lewis' film -- Giamatti does full-on comic rage as well as anyone.
  2. Reviewed by: Liz Beardsworth
    Jan 24, 2011
    80
    While perhaps a touch overlong and with plot strands that don't hang together as well as they might, this is remains a triumph, illuminated by a terrific leading man turn from Paul Giamatti.
  3. Reviewed by: Shawn Levy
    Feb 24, 2011
    75
    It's a breezy and charming film in all, well-acted, playful and filled with real joie de vivre.
  4. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    Jan 17, 2011
    70
    If Giamatti's particular brand of sad-eyed misanthropy floats your boat, you'll enjoy Barney's Version, an overcrammed and galumphing movie that nonetheless provides a bracing jolt of pure, uncut Giamatti.
  5. Reviewed by: Steve Persall
    Feb 16, 2011
    67
    Giamatti is a superb expressionist of emotional flotsam, with a Golden Globe for his effort.
  6. Reviewed by: Joe Williams
    Feb 11, 2011
    63
    Barney's Version has episodes instead of plot, outbursts instead of wit and alibis instead of growth.
  7. Reviewed by: Kyle Smith
    Dec 6, 2010
    38
    A sour, plotless and witless comedy-drama based on the final Mordecai Richler novel, wants to remind you of "Sideways" and its forlorn drink-moistened soul search. Giamatti is an ideal casting choice, but even this talented actor can't sell a lovable-jerk

See all 33 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 11 out of 15
  2. Negative: 3 out of 15
  1. Feb 6, 2011
    10
    What a wonderful film! A beautiful motion picture. I love Paul Giamatti, I'll see anything with him. He's one the finest actors on the planet. He gives an Oscar deserving performance. The film's beginning/middle/end never drifts. The film is perfectly paced. The cast was perfect for the film. Whoever did the casting got it spot on. Dustin Hoffman & Rosamund Pike are fantastic. Go see this masterpiece, it's worth your 8 bucks. Expand
  2. Mar 1, 2012
    9
    Barney's Version is an unexpected delight of a film. Paul Giamatti plays Barney Panofsky, an ageing, rich TV executive, looking back on his life. Barney is easily one of the most unlikeable characters in motion picture history. He is snobbish, arrogant, selfish, manipulative, chain-smoking and alcohol dependent - a real scumbag in short, and yet Giamatti somehow makes him compelling as a protagonist. You go on a real journey as Barney considers the highs and lows of his life, and your feelings of hate and contempt for him and his morally bereft actions steadily evolve into pity for him, and finally unquestionable sympathy. It really is the performance of Giamatti's career, and demonstrates his unrivaled excellence as a character actor. The entire supporting cast impress, but none more so than Rosamund Pike playing Barney's long-suffering, but ever-loving third wife Miriam, and Dustin Hoffman as Barney's wise and supportive ex-cop dad Izzy (Hoffman looks like he's having a ball with the role, and never more so than when Izzy educates his son on the real nature of married life). Barney's Version is a really involving, rewarding journey through a character's life, and like real life, it's got laughs, tears, and occasionally both at the same time. Director Richard J. Lewis and writer Michael Konyves have created what is, in essence, a very human viewing experience. The film is proof that no matter what a despicable human being someone is (and Barney really is), you can still feel empathy for them, as feeling sympathy is the natural human response to someone's suffering, no matter what you really think of them. The tragedy of the final chapter in Barney's life is expertly handled by Lewis and Konyves in the film's final act - it's tender, but never soppy, moving, but never in a manipulative way, it's just a well-judged piece of drama. Barney's Version will get a huge range of reactions from you as a viewer, and you'll likely re-evaluate your opinion of Barney on numerous occasions throughout the film. In many ways, he's a terrible person, and is shown to be responsible for a lot of misery in people's lives, but he's also undeniably human, and utterly believable. He makes a pleasantly refreshing change from the utter dullness present in most film characterisation - he may be rather nasty, but there's no denying that Barney is an interesting character! Barney's Version is an incredibly rewarding, compelling and believable human drama that has some nice comic and emotional beats. Incredible as it may seem, you may find yourself rooting for Barney Panofsky, one of the nastiest pieces of work ever committed to screen, by the end. Expand
  3. Jan 15, 2011
    9
    So worth the full price of a weekend ticket. I gravitate toward movies that take me from my own life, have a solid beginning/middle/END and especially if they do, with great impact, what their classification of movie genre encompasses; If it's a comedy I want to laugh, HARD. If a horror film, I want to be scared witless, and scream. This movie delivers everything and more of what it promises. Barney is complex and endlessly engaging, his life is symphonic. He's not the devil, he's no angel. He's you and me. I laughed out loud, I cried irrepressible tears, I held my head at the ears with that 'o gosh, no no no, not that', I flushed with anger and sighed resting into intense sweetness. I hope you'll go see it, and hope you are transported. As I was. Collapse
  4. Mar 11, 2011
    6
    I did not see anything new in this film. In fact, I was rather underwhelmed. I hate scotch so maybe that clouded my opinion. Barney came across to me as a pathetic character not like Hunter S. Thompson. Also, why did the third wife look like she never aged? Expand
  5. Mar 13, 2012
    6
    Barney's Version is not a perfect film, not by a long shot but it's clever enough in its writing and execution to be enjoyable despite the fact it is a film cut up into three separate sections and neither one ever really meshes with the other.
    Regardless of that, the film is a powerhouse in terms of acting performances with both Rosamund Pike and Dustin Hoffman giving career highlight performances. However the film belongs to Paul Giamatti as Barney because through his performance you can just about get past the jarring splitting up of the films narrative because the performance is so strong you'd follow it anywhere. That being said the split is incredibly noticeable with each part feeling almost like a different film. The first chapter is dark and twisted with some very black comedy and probably the most involving 30 minutes of the film. The second is lighter with a move towards more sarcastic humour which after a while grates, like Minnie Driver's character. It also includes a murder/accident plot that although important never feels relevant making the middle section of the film the weakest of the three. The final section is emotional, maybe a little too emotional, but it also explores the mundaneness of married life and how Barney has been affected by the people in his life better than the other two combined. With all this in mind it is a film that feels like it was made by three different people trying to say three different things and for that reason it can't be as powerful, moving or involving as it wants or needs to be, leading to an ending that should be poignant and bitter-sweet, but instead is entertaining but never powerful.
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  6. Mar 18, 2011
    6
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Let's talk about the first wife, Clara(Rachelle Lefevre), the free spirit whom Barney Panofsky(Paul Giamatti) marries in a shotgun wedding during his Roman holiday. Had she lived, a divorce would have surely followed with record-setting expedience, once they reached the North American continent. It's impossible to imagine Clara as a housewife, especially a Canadian one, waiting up nightly for her curmudgeon husband's return from the bar, satiated with booze and hockey. She is, indeed, as Boogie(Scott Speedman) puts it, "a conversation piece", the woman you have good times with, not the kind who'd make a good wife. But Barney knocks her up, so out of chivalrous obligation, he finds himself walking to the Canadian embassy, not with her, mind you, but ahead of her, to the pregnant(and smoking) woman's annoyance. Clearly, this marriage is a disaster in the making, a lark. Her big day is remarkably free of any romance. Barney should be holding her hand. He realizes too late the depth of her feelings for him. Clara has to tell her future husband and his friends to wait up. Even after the woman's suicide(depression brought on by her miscarriage), Barney doesn't love and honor her properly, in memoriam. He never hashes things out with Boogie, who is at least partially responsible for her self-induced passing. On the day of the incident, Barney discovers a mailed dinner invitation from Clara that Boogie had forgotten to pass along. Was he in love with Clara? Was he sabotaging a possible reconciliation? Barney never bothers to find out: not then and not years later when the old friends lock horns in a lakeside tussle after Boogie implies that he slept with Clara. Referring to the past, the recovering drug addict opens up a can of worms, but Barney puts the lid back on. When Barney asks Boogie for a few contrite words, it's not the apology we want the television producer to pursue. The apology he wants from the failed novelist pertains to him being caught in the act with his second wife(Minnie Driver), even though he hardly seems bothered by their betrayal. Had he actually murdered Boogie on the pier(and who says he didn't since Barney is a fallible narrator), you could hardly call it a crime of passion. Barney thinks so lowly of wife number two, she doesn't even have a proper name. Vulgar and conceited, the second wife is given these unflattering characteristics because it's integral to "Barney's Version" that we don't care that the bridegroom becomes an emotional absentee from the outset of their marriage, beginning at the wedding itself. We're not supposed to notice that he's being cruel to her, this wife with no name. She's the bad person, not him. Although her family is loaded, love means more to Barney than money, which to the audience, makes the curmudgeon a man of substance when he pursues Miriam(Rosamund Pike), the third wife, right after he signs the divorce papers. Because Driver models her character after the Jewish princess stereotype, the second wife ends up being unsympathetic to the audience, a caricature of personality tics(all annoying ones), when in fact, she exhibits great character by marrying Barney(whose father is a cop, played by Dustin Hoffman), since daddy's little rich girl is marrying beneath her station. But alas, she gets no credit from the audience for following her heart. Miriam, of course, is the woman that Barney spots at his wedding, and falls head over heels with her. When asked if she follows hockey, Miriam responds, "No, but I read the newspapers," which is probably the moment that Barney is done for. Unlike the first wife, who sleeps with Barney's friends(the stillborn baby was half-black), and the second wife, who is a bit of a blowhard(she keeps going on about her masters degree from McGill), Miriam has no flaws. Only a curmudgeon could f*ck this up. In the company of the perfect woman, we can better see what the second wife had to put up with, and what the first wife had to look forward to. As Barney loses his memory, he loses control of his ability to edit; his memories are no longer selective ones, so we see him, warts and all, in his married life with Miriam. Expand
  7. Dec 1, 2011
    2
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. This movie stinks!

    It's one of those movies with a pretty good cast but you never heard of it so you roll the dice and start watching and by the end you realize that you've wasted 127 minutes of your life.

    Blend together Mr. Hollands Opus, The Notebook, Goodbye Columbus, and The Apprenticeship of Dudey Kravitz and you end up with this un-entertaining hodge podge. The acting is terrible and the plot doesn't really make sense. On top of that, this is one of those movies that covers several decades so the actors wear stupid makeup and wigs that make them older and younger but the effect is unconfusing and at times laughable. Some characters age, others do not, huh? Dustin Hoffman stays about the same throughout, even when he's dead at the end.

    The whole murder subplot makes no sense. At the end they throw in some gratuitous Alzheimer stuff for no apparent reason.

    Giamatti's a fine actor but hot here. Hoffman as Barney's father is ridiculous, he look's younger than his son. It's ridiculous that Miriam leave Barney because of one stupid mistake except that's it's even more preposterous that she would ever be with him in the first place.
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