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Friday 21 January 2011

Barney's Version, Film directed by Richard Lewis, 4* out of 5, great film

Barney Panofsky is the owner manager of the film-production company “Totally Unnecessary Productions” and a regular at Grumpy's in his home-town of Montreal. Having reached his sixties he reflects on the important relationships of his life. Barney is a character; he is blunt, politically incorrect, impulsive, honest, direct, manipulative, self-centred yet lovable, tenacious in the pursuit of happiness.

Barney's important relationships are long lasting and stormy. None is stronger and more loving than the one he has with his father Izzy, a police detective, played here brilliantly by Dustin Hoffman. Izzy has a lot of Barney's qualities and character traits, but one senses that did not have the opportunities in his education and career.

The key to ensuring that Barney's tendency to extremes remains sufficiently channelled to make his tumultuous life one well lived, is the love he shares with his third wife, Miriam. Intellectually at least his equal, she demands and gives truth, honesty love and loyalty. Miriam is calm and understated where Barney is rambunctious and dramatic.

Barney's Version is very much a drama with comedic elements. Paul Giammati received a well deserved Golden Globe for his portrayal of the title role. Rosamund Pike deserves the highest accolades for a beautiful calm and controlled and highly believable performance as Barney's wife. Dustin Hoffman is brilliant, funny and lovable as Barney's dad.

Well played, scripted and directed, Barney's Version is a moving film of great quality, not to be missed.

I had the privilege of seeing Barney's Version at the Tricycle Cinema in London in an event organized jointly with the London Jewish Film Festival. The screening was followed by a Q&A session with Rosamund Pike, who played Miriam. One of Mordecai Richler's daughters was present in the audience. She told Rosamund Pike that her portrayal of Miriam, the character in Richler's novel who was based on her mother, Richler's third wife, was so authentic that the portrayal would have enchanted her father had he lived to see the film.

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