News / USA

Life's Disorder Takes Center Stage in Comedy, 'Barney's Version'

Paul Giamatti as Barney
Paul Giamatti as Barney

Multimedia

Audio
Alan Silverman

The final novel by acclaimed Canadian author Mordecai Richler is now a motion picture starring American actor Paul Giamatti as the prickly and complex Barney Panofsky, recounting the high and low points of his checkered life. Here's a look at Barney's Version.



There is more to that tender scene with Mr. and Mrs. Barney Panofsky. Yes, he has met the woman of his dreams, but she is not his new bride; and complicating matters - as Barney so often does - they met at his wedding to that new bride.

Life always seems to be playing jokes on Barney, even when he turns to his beloved father - retired police detective Izzy Panofsky - for some paternal wisdom:

"You're talking to someone who knows how hard marriage can be. In the beginning it's all briskets and lah-de-dah and ain't life grand; but soon enough real life starts, right?"

"This is the paternal wisdom I'm going to get?"


Left to Right: Paul Giamatti as Barney and Minnie Driver as 2nd Mrs. “P”
Left to Right: Paul Giamatti as Barney and Minnie Driver as 2nd Mrs. “P”

His work as a successful TV show producer in Montreal is easy compared with trying to figure out how to end his marriage so he can pursue Miriam. Fortunately (for Barney, at least), finding Mrs. P in the arms of his best friend solves the problem.

Abrasive, acerbic, arrogant: you can go through a whole alphabet of adjectives to describe Barney; and Paul Giamatti, who calls the character a "lovable rogue," says he never worried about Barney's antics pushing audiences away.

Paul Giamatti as Barney
Paul Giamatti as Barney

"I am all for pushing people as far as I can," admits Giamatti. "I kind of like to see how far I can push people. Fortunately this had built-in breaks in it so I wasn't going to do that in this because he does have many moments of not being so horrible and hard to take; but I sort of find it interesting to make people uncomfortable and challenge them to like somebody who is not terribly likeable."

In fact, Barney - at least in his own version of his life - can be downright easy to love. He must be to get three women to fall for and marry him. Rosamund Pike plays Miriam, the true love of Barney's life (the one he meets at his wedding to the second Mrs. P); and Pike says her character is wooed by his charm and determination.

Left to Right: Paul Giamatti as Barney and Rosamund Pike as Miriam
Left to Right: Paul Giamatti as Barney and Rosamund Pike as Miriam

"He does woo her, but interestingly, it is not the flowers, the posh lunch or wooing her by taking her to a fancy hotel or flying to New York to meet her; it's kind of the little things," explains Pike. "It's seeing him pass out drunk, but knowing that's because he was nervous. It's coming into the room and seeing five ties laid out and 15 shirts and realizing that this guy was nervous and how much it mattered to him."

Pike prepared for playing Miriam by meeting author Mordecai Richler's widow, Florence, who was the inspiration for the character (and who he really did meet and fall in love with on the day he married his second wife). Barney Panofsky appears in several Richler stories as something of the author's alter ego and Barney's Version, published in 1997, turned out to be his last novel. Richler died at age 70 in 2001, but not before starting to work on the film version with producer Robert Lantos, who continued the project as a tribute to his longtime collaborator and friend.

"The challenge of the whole thing was to honor the book and to preserve the spirit and integrity of it," explains Lantos, "and find a way to translate it into a two-hour visual experience that stands up to the vast majority of the audience who has never read the book and never will."

"I cannot believe that this really happens. It really happens. Just like that. It's amazing, no? And I don't care if it happened on my wedding night or at a funeral or my deathbed. It happened."


Barney's Version is directed by Richard Lewis and the cast features Minnie Driver as the "second Mrs. P." Dustin Hoffman is Barney's father Izzy and Scott Speedman plays his lifelong best friend, Boogie. Screenwriter Michael Konyves adapted the novel into a script and Barney's Version was shot on location in Montreal, Rome and New York City.

** Paul Giamatti won a Golden Globe for his role in Barney's Version on January 16, 20101

You May Like

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More