Tonight, courtesy of my friends at eOne, I got a sneak peek at "Barney's Version" the movie based on the book of the same name by Mordecai Richler. The book chronicles about 40 years of the life of Barney Panofsky - a Jewish television producer from Montreal. I went in with some expectations - it had been well received at TIFF, and Paul Giamatti had just been nominated for a Golden Globe.
The movie didn't disappoint - as Barney Panofsky, Giamatti delivers a very strong performance of a flawed man who believes deeply in love, but also has a very selfish, arrogant side that manifests in terrible behaviour. Giamatti, with his trademark morose, schlubness moves back and forth between lovely and asshole seamlessly, and once again manages to make the audience both appreciate and sympathize with a fundamentally flawed character.
It also sports a strong supporting cast: Scott Speedman, one of my favourites from the days of Felicity, is great as Barney's friend who goes from focused and brilliant to a disaster of a junkie. Minnie Driver playing a spoiled, vapid daughter of a wealthy businessman, delivers a solid performance as Barney's second wife and Dustin Hoffman shines in the role of Barney's rough around the edges retired-cop dad. And finally, Rosamund Pike delights as Barney's third wife.
I haven't read the book (despite owning a copy for the past 5 or 6 years) but you certainly don't need to before you see the movie. I'm sure that Montreallers will have a heyday spotting all of the landmarks in the movie (which is filmed largely in the city). I wouldn't classify it as a comedy, but it has some very funny moments, interlaced with some very poignant ones as well. There's Oscar buzz building for Giamatti, which I think is well-deserved.
All in all, I would give it a solid 8.5/10 - and would recommend it as a holiday choice. It's in theatres December 25th - add it to your list!