An oddball film that could so easily have been as shambolic as its central character, proves to be an insightful and amusing take on eventful moments that shape ordinary lives.
We witness a hotchpotch of episodes from the life of Barney, an impulsive and often obnoxious TV producer of a truly appalling camped-up soap opera that apparently has found success in Bulgaria. Generally out of step with much of his surroundings, Barney is a throw back to the anti-heroes of 1970’s New Hollywood, those edgy misfits who cannot reconcile the demands of a mainstream lifestyle with an inherent free spirit.
Paul Giamatti plays Barney with consummate ease; his screen persona is well suited to this overweight and heavy drinking ice hockey addict from the Montreal Jewish community. Barney’s first two marriages are unmitigated disasters, the second of which effectively ends on its wedding night when Barney claps eyes on Miriam who became wife No 3. Miriam, refined and attractive, is very much Barney’s binary opposite and they form an unlikely couple to say the least. Barney is boxing above his weight here but it is a measure of Giamatti’s enduring appeal that it does not appear implausible. We identify Barney with endearing qualities that Giamatti subtly allows to feed through his screen persona, carried over from previous performances, and allows Barney to emerge as the vulnerable but loveable jerk. Giamatti deservedly bagged a Golden Globe for best performance in a comic role but missed out in the recent Academy Award nominations.
Needless to say, it all goes horribly wrong for Barney. Possessive and jealous; he throws away his marriage on a one night stand with a small time actress floozy. We watch with anguish as Barney storms into his doctor’s surgery demanding a test for every STD under the sun. The tests were negative but Barney had already pressed the self-destruct button; there was no turning back, there were no second chances.
A strange mystery hangs over proceedings. Barney had a drunken altercation with a close friend during earlier times whilst brandishing a gun that is a serious contender for the strangest wedding present in recent film history. His friend was never seen again and an ex-cop, convinced of foul play, was obsessed with proving Barney’s guilt even to the point of publishing a book on the subject. We discover the truth late into the film but, by this time, Barney is suffering from Alzheimers and unable to comprehend its significance. Without schmaltz, the final scenes are affecting as the former Barney, flawed but very much alive, gradually disappears into an empty shell.
There is a memorable comic turn from Dustin Hoffman as Barney’s eccentric but wise father who is the wedding present guilty party. Minnie Driver is a riot playing Barney’s over the top socialite second wife and Rosalind Pike is a revelation with a mature and balanced performance par excellence as Miriam. Richard L Lewis’s direction is assured and Michael Konyves provides a witty and intelligent screenplay adapted from Mordecai Richler’s successful novel of the same name.
It is to be hoped that all the publicity surrounding the recent releases in contention for prestigious Academy Awards does not swamp this perceptive and engaging contribution to thoughtful filmmaking. There is much to enjoy here for those prepared to give it a chance.price of cialis in usabuy cialis 40 mg onlinecytotec for sale cytotec que es cytotec 200mg cialis sublingual sale cialis sublingual order online cost cialis sublingual cheap cialis sublingual