DVD: Barney's Version (15)

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The Independent Culture

Paul Giamatti excels in this heartfelt and bold adaptation of Mordecai Richler's fictional memoir.

He plays Barney Panofsky, a never satisfied, deeply flawed (he drinks heavily and is always puffing on a costly cigar) Canadian TV producer who glumly works his way through three marriages.

We first encounter him as an older man trundling into Grumpy's Bar, where he's berated by a cop (Mark Addy) about a murder he was supposed to have committed years ago. The film then flashes back to the key moments in this self-centred/romantic fool's life. We learn that he's a paranoid and provocative character who doesn't get on with father-in-laws, although he very much loves his own smutty ("You're married to a woman who has a beautiful rack!") and oddball dad, Izzy (Dustin Hoffman in his best film role in over 20 years).

His first marriage is to an unhinged free-spirit (Rachelle Lefevre), the second is to a Jewish princess (a gamey Minnie Driver), and he meets his third, Miriam, at his marriage to "the second Mrs P". The fragrant, cerebral Miriam (Rosamund Pike) is the love of his life, and, outrageously, he leaves his second wedding to track her down to a train station. Once there, he professes, clumsily, that he's "heels over head" about her. He bombards her with flowers until she succumbs. But this grump can never be content...