Based on Mordecai Richler’s comic novel, Richard J. Lewis’ Barney’s Version is a film with some real substance. Bored with cookie-cutter protagonists, it was refreshing to meet Barney (Paul Giamatti), whose faults are many, his struggles are enduring and who takes his rewards for granted. Barney is intertwined with one beautiful woman after another (Rachelle Lefevre, Minnie Driver), manages an impressive career, and has a father (Dustin Hoffman) who adores him. His life is, uncannily, balanced, but not without obstacle. He drinks too much, is often rude and may have even killed his best friend. But, when he doggedly pursues the love of his life (Rosamund Pike), the audience is, strangely enough, found rooting for him.
Pike’s performance is warming as she plays the perfect opposite to Giamatti’s character. Although the film felt a bit long and possibly had more background-building than was necessary, the movie felt very real. Barney isn’t one of these leading characters whose mistakes are few, but lovable idiosyncrasies are many. He’s human. He’s me. Maybe he’s you, but at least his character, due in part to Giamatti’s acting, is believable.