Barney's Version (Review)

A committed Paul Giamatti isn't enough to make this period drama compelling

We've all heard somebody say that so-and-so's life story should be made into a movie. But just because a producer thinks Mordecai Richler's faux autobiography is worthy of cinematic interpretation doesn't make it so.

Debut director Richard J. Lewis gets saddled with deceptively less fertile source material than must have appeared to Paul Giamatti. Giamatti plays Barney Panofsky, a non-practicing Jew living a bohemian lifestyle in 1970s-era Italy with his bipolar wife. Said wife's suicide sends Barney back to Canada to find work as a television producer. Barney also discovers his second wife — a Jewish Canadian Princess played by Minnie Driver — whose affections he throws over at their wedding reception when he spots an elegant Shiksa by the name of Miriam (Rosamund Pike).

Barney's thwarted attempts at wooing Miriam in the face of his marriage to "Mrs. P." come to a welcome end when he finds wifey in bed with his best friend (Scott Speedman). A vague murder mystery bookends the story, but Barney's Version spins with more narrative distraction than direction. Giamatti's Barney breaks character in a puffed-up crisis decision that brings down the whole house of cards. Committed performances from a strong cast still don't make Barney's Version a rendition worth visiting. Grade: C

Opens Feb. 18. Check out theaters and show times, see the trailer and get theater details here.
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