There’s something barmy about Barney
memoir, the film trawls through its protagonist’s recollections in a haze determined by neuroses and Alzheimer’s. Time dilates accordingly; we spend years on one marriage and seconds on another. There are conflicting reports regarding a missing junkie friend (Scott Speedman), who may or may not have disappeared with Barney’s “assistance”. There are any number of inconsistencies and tangents.
Against this brave dramatic sprawl, it is not too surprising to see Atom Egoyan and David Cronenberg lend their support with cameos, or to learn that the adaptation process took more than a decade. Unhappily, the film’s uncompromising form is often its undoing.
There is simply far too much information and complexity in Richard J Lewis’s textured screen adaptation to determine what exactly, if anything, we ought to be focusing on. The huge emotional swells and punches – the death of Barney’s father, his final marital failings – subsequently fail to connect as they might.
Giammati’s tremendous central turn goes some distance to making sense of an anarchic narrative that can feel like a breathless series of “and thens”. His defeated, kind, self-serving, paradoxical Barney warrants a Guernica-style canvas and almost gets one with this leftfield picture. The Golden Globe and any other plaudits that come Giamatti’s way are well deserved.
Directed by Richard J. Lewis. Starring Paul Giamatti, Dustin Hoffman, Rosamund Pike, Minnie Driver, Rachelle Lefevre, Scott Speedman, Bruce Greenwood, Saul Rubinek, Denys Arcand, Atom Egoyan, David Cronenberg One for the road: Paul Giamatti as Barney