Barney’s Version (Sony Pictures Classics, R)

In Richard J. Lewis’ take on Mordecai Richler’s novel, Barney’s Version, a young-at-heart cast heroically embraces aging on the big screen.

 
 
 
 
Usually, multiple actors play characters that age within a narrative’s time frame. Remember that sweet lady who played Kate Winslet’s character in Titanic once she became senile? More recently, computers make aging easier, like in The Mysterious Case of Benjamin Button. Brad Pitt had a mysterious case of being a wrinkly computer generated head on a baby’s body. If these types of steps weren’t taken, it may just become jarringly and unnaturally obvious that movie magic isn’t so magical after all. It takes amazing talent and makeup for one actor to pull off growing older. In Richard J. Lewis’ take on Mordecai Richler’s novel, Barney’s Version, a young-at-heart cast heroically embraces aging on the big screen.
 
Paul Giamatti took home the Golden Globe for best actor in a comedy or musical for his performance as Barney Panofsky. Starting out portraying his character as a college graduate, Giamatti’s acts his way through a 40-year age range and easily passes as a grandpa. From his perspective, Barney’s life enfolds in a series of flashbacks and marriages. He smokes his way through three wives. His early adulthood starts with a short marriage to a sharp-tongued hippie, Clara (Rachelle Lefevre). Next he lands a Jewish daddy’s girl (Minnie Driver) and accidently finds the true love of his life, Miriam (Rosamund Pike). This whole time, his best friend, Boogie (Scott Speedman), shows up for the weddings and offers drug assistance. Boogie eventually goes missing, which becomes a defining memory in Barney’s life. He drinks his way through a career as a Canadian television producer at his studio, comically called Totally Unnecessary Productions. The local watering hole, Grumpy’s, is equally aptly named. As a father, lover and son, Barney lives in a healthy balance of awkwardness and beauty.
 
With a cigar in his mouth, Barney realistically comes to life and passes through the years. Time feels like a completely natural process in this film. It can be scary to go through life’s changes, and memories can only last so long. Still, Barney’s life and the people in it are hilarious. Dustin Hoffman appears as Barney’s dad, Izzy. The character is meaningful, but true Hoffman fans will wish he had more screen time. His real-life son is young enough to literally play his grandson in the film, and there is an obvious resemblance.
 
Lewis proves that only the good die old. With years of loneliness and companionship, Barney lives his own kind of legacy. Together director and cast have constructed a film that is a moving memento of a full life. | Alice Telios

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