Monday, January 17, 2011

Entertaining, yes, but what's the point?

Barney’s Version is a generally well-made film from a Canadian director with a cast of international stars, set in Montreal and well, not seeming at all like the dreary Canadian films we’ve come to expect. Interestingly, films based on the books of Mordecai Richler tend to be fairly well made, exuding any evidence of Canadian art house dreariness. I’m thinking of the Richard Dreyfuss–led The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974, Ted Kotcheff). In Barney’s Version, Richard J. Lewis (Whale Music, 1994) is at the helm as director. But Lewis has been so immersed in directing American TV series he brings forth a movie shed of the narrow and pretentious bleakness of indie Canadian film. This movie has a look and feel of Hollywood, and that’s a good thing......Paul Giamatti in the lead role as Barney Panofsky also provides big time cred as does Dustin Hoffman as Barney’s father Izzy. Minnie Driver also takes a turn as Barney’s second wife.  This is an entertaining film based on Richler’s last novel (1997), a story about a curmudgeon TV producer and his life and times.....There’s nothing particularly special about Panofsky. The film starts with him as a young man in Rome hanging with some of his artsy friends. There he meets wife number one, a self-obsessed poet. Returning to Montreal he marries wife number two, a classic Jewish-Canadian princess. Wife number three Mariam (Rosamund Pike) turns out to be the love of his life. But Barney, being Barney, tends to mess even that up. You see, Barney, a man of some intellectual depth despite his schlocky production company and boozing lifestyle, yearns for a woman of class and intelligence. The problem is, he can’t ultimately control his self-destructive urges. He is by turns cynical, caustic, funny and, well, a jerk. Or, this film being Jewish, a perfect schmuck......Which led to a friend of mine’s question about what the point of this movie was anyway. Enjoyable entertainment? Sometimes that’s all something needs to be. But don’t expect any life lessons, or moral answers, from Barney’s Version. Nor does the film capture more of the complexity of Panofsky’s character that’s apparently in the novel, such as his self-loathing as someone who yearns for beauty in all of its manifestations, as represented by Miriam. So, score one for an entertaining two-hour flic. But when you think about it there’s really not much more here.

No comments:

Post a Comment