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

Video Analysts: Beijing Parade a 'Bazaar' of Stolen Technology

Show commemorating victory over Japan in World War II involved long, medium and short range missiles, a range of tanks and 200 fighter aircraft More

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf 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.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs