Monday, June 27, 2011

Barney's Version

Barney’s Version is a film garnishing critical acclaim in 2010, from its wins for Best Actor for Paul Giamatti at the Golden Globes for his portrayal as a love struck, alcoholic hockey loving, aging television producer, Barney Panofsky, to the Academy Award Nominated film for make-up as we see a 30+ year span in the life of Barney. There is also the supporting cast representing his 3 wives, his father played by Dustin Hoffman, his children, and ultimately his one true love, Miriam played by Rosamund Pike.

Barney is a tragic story of love lost, love found, and love lost again, well sort of lost. Barney while at his own wedding meets the love of his life, a woman other than his new bride. He leaves the wedding to ask her to marry him even though the two just met. What transpires is her initial rejection and then Barney’s attempt at getting out of a failed marriage doomed at the very beginning and his quest to be with his one true love, Miriam. The journey takes place over a 30+ year time span.

Barney’s Version is a tragic, yet touching and meaningful tale of love, and life. This acting tour de force is an incredible example of quality direction provided by Richard J. Lewis and the lasting story based on the book of the same name by Mordecai Richler. While the screenplay by Michael Konyves does the story justice, the movie does suffer at times from likely movie versus book comparisons. While the movie does a good job, it is impossible to follow the complete concepts of the book, yet, Richler does a good job at doing so and Lewis does a nice job of directing this story driven drama.

Through the story we see Barney from a young man fresh out of college, to the later stages of his life. The make-up transitions are simply put, amazing. Just as amazing is the character development. We never have quite all the answers which keep us glued to the screen as the viewer questions and searches for the pieces of the puzzle. While there are holes in the story, there is enough continuity to keep us mesmerized. The primary credit for this is the outstanding performances on screen. Giamatti is one of the top actors on screen today. He is a treasure to the cinema. He doesn’t let down one iota in this film. We hurt for him, grieve for him, get mad at him, and at times, want to curse him for the decisions he makes. Despite all of the emotion, we never get to the point where we don’t care for him. The end of the film had me tearing up for his character. He never loses love for his one true love, despite the tragedy that falls on him, and there are lessons we can all learn.

Barney’s Version is a reminder of the reality that real love is possible. It powerfully portrays the power of love and the lasting nature of love, even when it seems as if love at times fails. It also reflects on the power and damage that can come about due to jealousy. While jealousy appears to be the downfall of Barney, he quickly realizes his mistakes. Unfortunately the recognition of the mistakes and seeking out of forgiveness doesn’t take away from the consequences of his sin. Just as in many real relationships, while Barney loves his wife and family with a deep passion, he begins to take for granted the things he has. There are consequences for Barney as a result of this attitude, but in the end, despite the tragedies, he comes to the place where he never really loses the thing he desires most.

Many live in a world where heartache and tragedy are an all too real part of life. Some take love for granted. Barney’s Version shows that true love is possible and one should not give up hope. There is power in the love of family, yet many take it for granted. I suspect the director Lewis touches on this theme for a reason. While many of us feel sorry for Barney, we can relate to him. Some will be inspired to love more. Right after watching the movie, I did something out of the ordinary; I went gave my wife a kiss and tell her that I love her. I was inspired to not make the mistakes Barney had, I didn’t want to suffer the same consequences. I wanted my wife to know that I love her.

1st Corinthians 13 in the Bible is in my opinion the most perfect of all definitions in regards to what love is. It is patient, kind, never envious, isn’t jealous, and the list goes on. It would have done Barney well to have known the definition of love as described in 1st Corinthians. Maybe the tragedies wouldn’t have fallen on him. Who knows?

The power of Barney’s Version and Paul Giamatti’s portrayal is that I found myself caring for this character, even after the movie was over. While the characters and their development could have been a little tighter, there was only one criticism I had of the Blu-Ray DVD I had for review. The Blu-ray version of the DVD, (it comes with a standard DVD and a Blu-ray) didn’t work. I worked for over an hour on the crazy thing and just couldn’t get it to work. Unfortunately, all of the special features are on the Blu-ray version. I love special features, and it appears as if there are a number of good ones, unfortunately, I can’t comment on them because due to the defective Blu-ray disc I couldn’t watch them. I wish I could as I wanted to know more about the story. The DVD advertises an interview with the original author of the novel, a behind the scenes making of feature, and more.

While this is a powerful story, well acted, well presented, I honestly don’t know if I would watch it enough to justify the purchase price of it. I would certainly strongly recommend the rental of it and believe film enthusiast and those who enjoy quality movie making with good story will greatly appreciate this movie. I know I did, and while it may be awhile before I watch it again, it will be awhile before I forget the excellent characters and story as presented in Barney’s Version.

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