Barney’s Version

Paul Giamatti, Minnie Driver, Dustin Hoffmann, tongue-and-cheek humor, indie film–where do you think the problem was? Going into this film, I was deceived. Reading reviews, I had seen that it wasn’t exactly the best, but as an overall feel, nobody had said that it was bad either, so I thought, why not.

The movie did not pan out well. Beginning as just what it seemed–a tongue-and-cheek story of someone who gets married, divorced, married again, and falls in love on his wedding night with another woman–it slowly dissipated. The movie spans about 40 years, told in flashbacks, staring with Giammatti in Rome in the 70s. He has some friends, seemingly gets a girl pregnant, and then she kills herself. He moves to Canada, gets a job in bad TV and marries a well-educated (as she says many times, she does have a masters) although culturally ignorant Minnie Driver. On their wedding night, he falls for another woman, elegant, poised and innately intelligent, Rosamund Pike. Okay, so the set-up isn’t bad.

But the movie takes too much time–there is too much of a gap from the beginning of it to the end, making it seem as though too much of the book was left out, as there are clearly gaping holes. There are plot lines that don’t seem to pertain to the rest of the movie, such as him perchance murdering his best friend. I haven’t read the book, and so it probably is a good character piece in the novel, but in the movie is seems random and underdeveloped–as does his first marriage.

The movie also leaves subtlety behind, hitting you over the head with hints that his wife is going to marry someone else, and that he will develop Alzheimers. When these first moments of the film arrive, obviously they tried at a hint, but it went too far and it ended up being a gun shot. The movie ends with devastating sadness–Giammati forgets first where his car is, then which utensil to use, and then that he isn’t married to his wife anymore–doing a complete 180. And while this sometimes works (although extremely rarely), in this case, the movie was not only a drag (to put it nicely) it was horrifically boring.

The acting was all good, and the scenes in Rome were definitely pretty, but the overall story and plot line were put together in a nonsensical way, taking it from a movie that could have aired on the side of funny into something plunging into the waters of sadness, and while if from the beginning it had taken that first leap, could have developed into something great.

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