TIFF: ‘Barney’s Version’ returns home, raves for Giamatti

Posted by · 6:22 am · September 13th, 2010

Last night’s North American premiere of “Barney’s Version” in Toronto was something of a homecoming for the Canadian production — it was, of course, first unveiled on Friday at the Venice Film Festival, where its soft-centered middlebrow appeal rather stood out against the more rigorous auteurism of its fellow Competition titles.

If Richard J. Lewis’s film proved too MOR to impress Quentin Tarantino’s jury (even Paul Giamatti, much fancied for the Best Actor prize, left empty-handed) it was nonetheless enthusiastically received on the Lido, earning sustained applause, and even a few whoops, at the industry screening I attended. You’d expect, then, its home audience to be similarly receptive, though word seems pretty quiet so far.

Via Twitter, Anne Thompson echoes a view I expressed in my own positive review, saying that “if [Sony Picture Classics] play their cards right, Paul Giamatti could get an Oscar nom” for his performance as a dissolute, thrice-married TV producer. (She later adds that the film’s after-party was “lame,” but I’m sure she won’t hold that against him.)

The reviews that have trickled through since its Venice bow support the Giamatti buzz: Michael Rechtshaffen’s near-rave review for The Hollywood Reporter deems his performance “pitch-perfect,” possessed of “a stubborn vulnerability that’s indispensable to the film’s palpable poignancy,” and suggests that Canadian and possibly American kudos await him. Variety’s Justin Chang is far cooler on the film itself, deeming it a dumbed-down adaptation of a dense novel, but offers generous praise for the star’s “marvelously elastic performance.”

The kind words aren’t only for Giamatti: Dustin Hoffman’s terrific comic-relief turn as Giamatti’s shabby cop dad is declared “one of his tastiest performances in years” by Screen Daily’s Lee Marshall, whose mixed-to-positive review shares Chang’s reservations about the adaptation. Indeed, there’s across-the-board approval in the trades for Hoffman and Rosamund Pike — suggesting that Sony would do well to zero in on the acting races.

As I implied in my review, however, this is less a critics’ film than a mature-audience crowdpleaser, so it’s worth keeping an eye (or ear, rather) on how it goes down at its public screenings. With a hometown advantage, I can easily imagine it taking home the festival’s often auspicious Audience Award.

Finally, no less an authority than Wales’s finest, Rob Brydon, thinks the film is “incredible” and “will win Oscars.” Which is nice to know.

→ 14 Comments Tags: , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

14 responses so far

  • 1 9-13-2010 at 10:06 am

    Nick said...

    At this point it seems likely Sony will campaign for awards for “Made in Dagenham” (Best Picture, maybe Best Director, Sally Hawkins, Miranda Richardson), “Another Year” (Best Picture, Best Director, Lesley Manville) and “Barneys Version” (Paul Giamatti, Dustin Hoffman)..
    I’m not sure what will happen to “Get Low”. Robert Duvall has an outside shot but needs a lot of goodwill from the industry (I bet Sony has already sent the screeners, which might help)…Jackie Weaver (“Animal Kingdom”) needs the critics to push for her..

  • 2 9-13-2010 at 10:17 am

    JJ said...

    SPC will support Duvall first. It will come down to him and Firth. Not sure SPC plans to release Barney’s this year.

  • 3 9-13-2010 at 10:21 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    JJ: Yes, they will be releasing Barney’s limited in late December and wider a few weeks later. They’ll be following a schedule similar to The Last Station.

  • 4 9-13-2010 at 10:50 am

    Nick said...

    “They’ll be following a schedule similar to The Last Station.”
    Which worked quite good last year with nominations for both Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer.
    On the other hand: almost every year a veteran actor gets nominated for Best Actor..and this category doesn’t look as strong as in recent years.

  • 5 9-13-2010 at 11:13 am

    Sean C. said...

    If the reviews for Pike are good, given the disarray in the Supporting Actress category, she could be a contender there (certainly, AMPAS likes it some English ladies).

  • 6 9-13-2010 at 11:29 am

    Nick said...

    Sean C.: Supporting Actress is still relatively open, but Sony already has at least one strong contender in this category (Miranda Richardson), one of those “English ladies” AMPAS likes ;-), maybe even two (Jackie Weaver). I don’t see a strong campaign for Rosamund Pike..thus Academy members will have to REALLY love “Barney’s Version” for Pike having a chance.

  • 7 9-13-2010 at 2:12 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    I get a little skeptical of the reviews for this film singling out Paul Giamatti for praise. His character looks and sounds like the same schlubby lovable loser types that he’s portrayed in American Splendor and Sideways (and Lady in the Water, and Cold Souls, etc.).

  • 8 9-13-2010 at 2:16 pm

    Speaking English said...

    Jacki Weaver isn’t English, Nick.

  • 9 9-13-2010 at 3:08 pm

    McAllister said...

    I’m really having a hard time with the lack of coverage for Jacki Weaver. She should be a shoo-in.

  • 10 9-13-2010 at 3:38 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    McAllister: I’d cover it more if someone in the UK would let me see the film. Alas.

  • 11 9-13-2010 at 3:41 pm

    McAllister said...

    Guy- you pay for a plane ticket to Atlanta and I’ll pay for your movie ticket.

  • 12 9-13-2010 at 3:49 pm

    Nick said...

    Speaking English: I’m sorry. I meant Richardson!

  • 13 9-13-2010 at 6:08 pm

    Maxim said...

    I loved Last Chance Harvey. If this is anywhere as good this would be something to see.

  • 14 9-14-2010 at 1:44 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Maxim: It’s narratively much denser than “Last Chance Harvey” — of which I’m also a fan. But I think it plays to a similar audience.