For the first half hour of "Barney's Version," I wanted to walk out. I found it extremely unfunny, irritating, obnoxious and a waste of my time. Part of the problem for this is that the descriptions of this movie fall in the nebulous category, where publicists don't know what the heck to write about it. "Barney's cranky, and this is his life," is about as far as they'd get.
And indeed, there's Paul Giamatti, irrascible, puffing cigars and drinking booze from the first frame. Making crank calls to his ex-wife at 3 am. Fun stuff. Why the HELL do I want to get involved in this schmuck's life, one asks?
Here's why. To me, it's the story of TRUE LOVE. How true love hits someone and doesn't let go. And how, even when you have true love, you might just mess it up. That's what makes it worth seeing.
Barney's first marriage happens when his bride becomes pregnant. He does the honorable thing, and marries her. Then finds out it wasn't even his kid. That one doesn't end so well.
His dad (Dustin Hoffman) sets him up with his next lovely lady. And Minnie Driver is indeed lovely. And rich. What's not to like? Well, the incessant talking, perhaps...
So, there he is, at his second wedding, surrounded by many of her relatives, everyone getting smashingly drunk. Barney most of all, pounding back the shots. When suddenly through his drunken stupor, he looks across the room and sees her. Not his freshly-minted wife. His true love. And it hits him like an oncoming train.
He ventures closer and starts talking to her. She sees he is drunk. But they do hit it off. He abruptly leaves his own wedding to chase her to the train heading back to New York. And so it begins.
So there was the reason that made me sit in my seat for the rest of the movie, and be rewarded. How can this schlub of a man find true love with such a beautiful woman? But there it is, clear as day.
The film is based on the writings of Mordecai Richler. The film is dedicated to him.
It is packed with a cast of many stunning acting talents. Scott Speedman, for example, looks like sunshine made real as the charming playboy in Italy.
But the revelation, not surprisingly, since she's been the revelation of several movies of late (Made in Dagenham notably this season, and An Education last) is Rosamund Pike. She is gorgeous, refined, wonderful as a counterpoint to Barney.
It's sad and kind of tragic that Barney chose to live his life the way he wanted to: drinking, smoking big cigars and watching hockey games with the boys at the local bar. The love of his life chose to grow and evolve. But it's very interesting to see how all these pieces fall into place.
So trust me. The beginning may be annoying, but all in all, Barney's Version is a good ride through someone's life. I really do wanna see "Miriam's Version" next, though.