Barney’s Version not likely to impress fans of the book
Barney’s Version may already have a U.S. distributor with Sony Pictures Classics, but a few early reviews of Robert Lantos’s high-stakes adaptation of Mordecai Richler’s CanLit classic suggest the film may not be up to snuff for fans of the book when it premieres at TIFF on Sunday. Variety slammed its diluted rendering of Richler’s rich text, saying, “The dizzying comic energy and intellectual vigor of Mordecai Richler’s 1997 satire have largely been drained from director Richard J. Lewis’s agreeable but inevitably lesser version of Barney’s Version.” The crux of Variety‘s criticism seemed to come from the film being “overwhelmed by the challenge” of fitting 40 years of narrative into 132 minutes of screen time.
The buildup isn’t all bad, though; Hollywood Reporter hailed Paul Giamatti’s performance in the title role. “Not since Richard Dreyfuss so capably inhabited the title role in 1974’s The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz has a Richler (the author died in 2001) lead character been brought to life as effectively as Giamatti’s irascible, rumpled Barney Panofsky,” Michael Rechtshaffen wrote. Brian D. Johnson of Maclean’s says Dustin Hoffman “deftly steals every scene he’s in.” So the consensus seems to be: really good cast, really different from the book. For most Canucks, that classifies it as Torrent-worthy.