Barney, Rubble

Barney’s Version: adapted by Michael Konyves from the novel by Mordecai Richler; directed by Richard J. Lewis; starring Paul Giamatti (Barney Panofsky), Mark Addy (Detective O’Hearne), Scott Speedman (Boogie), Dustin Hoffman (Izzy Panofsky), Minnie Driver (The Second Mrs. Panofsky), and Rosamund Pike (Miriam Grant) (2011): Paul Giamatti is pretty much pitch perfect in this adaptation of Mordecai Richler’s last novel. Even his awesome ‘fro in the 1970’s sequences seems perfect, hideous though it is.

Barney is a pretty typical Richlerian superschlub — funny, screwed up, occasionally self-destructive, possessed of a core of mushy romanticism that only occasionally manifests itself, often in spectacularly inappropriate ways. Oh, and he loves hockey. Boy, does he love hockey. And cigars. And hard liquor.

Over the course of the movie, Barney goes through three wives and three careers. He is accused of, but never prosecuted for, the (assumed) murder of his disappeared best friend Boogie, whose ultimate fate seemed a lot more prominently displayed in the novel. The main frame of the film, set in 2007, when Barney is 64, looks back on Barney’s life in a mostly linear manner. In 2007, Barney is the successful producer of a long-running soap on Radio-Canada about a Mountie (played knowingly by Paul Gross) and a French-Canadian nurse. But he’s divorced and somewhat miserable. And then back we go.

Then performances are all pretty much top-notch — Bruce Greenwood is great as an earnest neighbour whom Barney instantly dislikes, Rosamund Pike is lovely and understated as the Third Mrs. Panofsky, and Dustin Hoffman seems to have a hoot playing Barney’s retired Montreal policeman father. I’m surprised that this movie doesn’t clock in at about 4 hours. It really plows through a lot, maybe a bit too much. Recommended.

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