Friday, April 1, 2011

Movie Review - Barney's Version

Barney's Version - ****

Directed by:  Richard J. Lewis

Starring:  Paul Giamatti, Rosamund Pike, Dustin Hoffman, Minnie Driver, Scott Speedman

Review:  Barney lives his life the way I would imagine most people wish they could live theirs.  He travels around the world, drinks like a fish, cures his hangovers with more drinks, and basically lives his life on a whim.  He seemingly has a nihilistic point of view, nothing will come between what he has and what he wants, whether that be friends, family, or the sanctity of marriage, Barney relentlessly pursues his life interests.  He is in a constant struggle to make himself happy and if can’t get exactly what he wants he will drown his sorrows in booze and illicit drugs.

Barney is flanked by his father whom we can see is where Barney gets his ‘devil may care’ attitude from, but that he is much wiser than Barney at this stage in his life.  Often times, his own father is his partner in crime including his wedding to his second wife which is where he realizes he is madly in love…with one of the guests to his own wedding.  As a lover of the arts Barney is surprised to see that one can actually experience ‘love at first sight.’  Whether one can actually fall ‘the heels over head’ in love with someone just off of a visual representation is up for debate.  However, people can connect on different levels and some can connect quicker than others.  Is it really out of the question to realize you have a great connection after just one conversation?  Perhaps the conversation is just the confirmation of the stirring one experiences within upon seeing someone they feel they have a future with. 

I will spare the details of how, but know that Barney eventually gets divorced from his second wife, pursues the guess he instantly fell in love with, Miriam, marries her and they start a life together.  After years of aimlessly wandering as a spectator in his own life Barney has finally sat himself in the drivers seat and is where he has always wanted to be.  Barney has reached a level of happiness that he only dreamed of.

Barney is a man that cannot seem to get out of his own way.  This is ultimately a product of how he lives his life so recklessly in his early years.  Living his life by the seat of his pants creates a barrier to the maturity milestones one would hit in their normal lives.  Barney forces himself to marry his first wife after impregnating her.  Once he finds out the baby was not her he leaves her and she is so wrecked that she takes her own life.  Barney had a chance to save her but couldn’t and so he is forced to pick up and move on. 

After meeting his future second wife at a work party, he convinces himself that she is attractive and will provide a suitable mate, even though he can hardly stand to talk to her.  Upon meeting Miriam at their wedding he finds himself looking for the quickest way out of his marriage which is provided through no work of his own.  Barney wastes no time literally calling Miriam as he signs his divorce papers.  She agrees to go out with him and the rest is history.

As Barney and Miriam live out their lives Barney is content and happy with everything that has transpired.  He has hit some bumps in the road with friends, family, and former wives but it is those instances that he has used as the building blocks for his life, his philosophy, and what has made him what he is today.  Barney cherishes the memories of his past because had it not been for his past life experiences he would not be to the point where was so happy.  Had his first wife not committed suicide he wouldn’t have gone home and met his second wife, and had he not married her he wouldn’t have met his true love Miriam.  Each experience was crucially important to Barney’s life and he knows this.

However, those same experiences have carved out a personality within Barney that he can’t fight forever and finds himself getting in his own way again.  Eventually he winds up all alone with nothing but his memories to keep him going and to remind him of who he is and once was.  Without giving away too much those memories become a battle in and of themselves for Barney.

Paul Giamatti gives a phenomenal performance.  One of the best scenes of the movie involves Barney finding his father dead at a ‘massage parlor’ and, appreciating the humor of the situation, begins to laugh hysterically.  Barney is smiling and laughing, but there is still emotion behind his eyes.  It is a great credit to a great actor that you could cover up everything but his eyes and still feel the emotion of the scene.

Giamatti is bolstered by great performances from the supporting cast including a very good performance from Rosamund Pike.  Dustin Hoffman and Scott Speedman are perfect additions to Barney and compliment his character very well as partners in crime at different stages of his life.

The performances really make this movie and I would say it’s definitely worth your time.

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