Did you ever wonder why you have incarnated in the world?
What is the bigger picture for humanity?
Do we have purpose here?
Well if you have asked yourself or a greater power some kind of reason for existnece then this film is not for you. This is a film for schlubs… That is basically what Barney is; an alcoholic, sports fan, whose greatest moment of his life rests on pursuing the woman of his dreams at his own wedding. It is all downhill from there; for Barney and the film Version. This single ambition of Barney's is the only inspired and memorable aspect of the film…. The whole two torturous hours rests on this initiative…. yes a great moment…but then Barney (and the film for that matter) go no way, “nada” --but down the drain.
Yes it great to see how frivolous romance can be, as we watch people fall in and out of love, until Barney disintegrates into a senile stupor. But do we have to go to a movie to see that. In other words - the film loses its way even though Giamatti is marvelous and right on track in portraying the loveless and likeless, schlemiel (why are there so many Jewish words to define this character?) Barney. Just to complete my Yiddish tirade he is also a schnook and a meshuganah.
Part of the collapse of the film is that it starts out as the retrospective of Barney’s life after he wrote a book trying to defend himself again the accused murder of his best friend for having sex with his second wife - the one he wanted to leave anyway for the woman of is dreams…. So we don’t know why Barney’s threatens his friend when he catches him in the act. Is it ego? Pride? or just a bad and unlikely plot move? Nevertheless Barney's drunkeness makesathreat that results in the friends disappearance.
Then Barney meets Miriam (not “when Harry met Sally” unfortunately) the cute coolness we see in Rosamund Pike - stays that way too long it starts to get icy. And you think what was it that these two people had in common in the first place. Well I guess that is like a lot of relationships that go south. This is when the film slides into bad television movie montage - of kids growing up and the lose of connection with the love. Orson Wells did so well in Citizen Kane, as the breakfast table gets longer and longer as honeymoon bliss slides into partner alienation. This film resorts rather to a home movie compilation...
Yet the cast is great, even though the direction is over the top. Dustin Hoffman as Barney’s father is the best thing he has done since the Graduate, (sorry Dustin). And Minnie Driver as the second wife is the Jewish princess you love to hate, even though upon meeting her in person, I found a real depth that has yet to emerge in screen roles.
Richard Lewis director loses his direction, as we go from flashback as Barney reads his own book about his life to flash forward about his eventual collapse… Richard, what happened to the book that featured so prominently in the opening sequence? Well that is the problem with weak adaption’s of novels where too much wants to be told in too little time… This makes for a pretty sloppy and poorly adapted film, based on Mordecai Richler's award-winning 1997 novel of the same name.
Overall the movie ends up as a mush…
Again Giamatti is unforgettable, while Barney is definitely forgettable. Tell me why would you want to see a film about a booze guzzling - cigar smoking putz whose only ambition in life is to see a hokey game and get smashed with his friends… Doing either for me a waste of time and certainly watching someone do that is a bigger waste. However, there could be some redeemable value in seeing that "it takes all types" on planet earth. - But the direction never goes into the depths of Barney’s psyche long enough to find out what really drives him.
See the movie at your own risk to find out “how indulgence can replace meaning” and the pursuit of any other thing else besides the material, self absorbed reality is never even a considered...