DID YOU READ

“Barney’s Version,” Reviewed

“Barney’s Version,” Reviewed (photo)

Posted by on

Paul Giamatti wears the role of Barney Panofsky, the prickly, big-hearted hero of “Barney’s Version,” like it’s a tailored suit. He takes obviously pleasure in it, and, watching, so do we — it’s a great fit. Barney is a man with an appreciation for life’s more rarefied and delicate things, though he’s earthbound himself, a creature of dark impulses and fleshly appetites, a fellow who relishes a drink and a cigar and a hockey game.

Yes, hockey. Barney, like Mordecai Richler, the author of the novel on which this film is based and to whom it’s dedicated (Michael Konyves wrote the screenplay), is Canadian, residing in Montreal and overseeing a popular, wretched-looking long-running soap opera about a Mountie called “O’Malley of the North.” (David Cronenberg cameos as an episode director who falls asleep on the job — Denys Arcand and Atom Egoyan also supposedly make appearances, though I failed to spot the latter.) He’s been married three times, divorced twice, but he’s only ever been in love once, with Miriam (Rosamund Pike), for whom he tumbled head over heels on the day of his wedding to another woman.

Directed by Richard J. Lewis, “Barney’s Version” runs 132 minutes and feels like it could have stretched twice that. Like so many reverent adaptations, it seems compressed thanks to a reluctance to leave any elements of the original out — and there’s a lot of ground to cover, since “Barney’s Version” is literally Barney’s version of his own swooping life story, recounted to no one in particular as a counterpoint to a recently published sleazy true crime tell-all that claims he’s a murderer. Characters and storylines suffer, but while the film is overstuffed, it’s overstuffed with many good things, and if it doesn’t come together perfectly it still offers the pleasing sensation of a long ramble with good friends.

12032010_barneysversion5.jpgIt’s good friends with which Barney’s keeping company, leading a bohemian ’70s lifestyle in Rome, in the film’s first flashback — “Barney’s Version” takes place primarily in the past, flickering forward on occasion to check in on the embittered, lonely present day Barney. There’s Cedric, aspiring painter Leo and the charming, shiftless, substance-abusing writer Boogie (Scott Speedman). Barney is their “only friend with a real job,” and he’s about to get married for the first time to the unstable Clara (Rachelle Lefevre), who’s pregnant with what she’s pretty sure is his baby.

When things ends in tragedy, Barney scurries home to Montreal in anguish, cleaning up, getting a job from his uncle and courting a nice Jewish girl (Minnie Driver) who transforms, as soon as a ring is on her finger, into a ballbusting stereotypical princess. Fortunately and unfortunately for Barney, he meets the true love of his life right after that happens — Miriam, a guest at the wedding, a willowy beauty whose train home to New York the drunken groom tries to chase down.

Barney’s crazy courtship of and eventual life with Miriam should be the centerpiece of the story, but Miriam’s a cipher, a woman whose unexplained embrace of Barney seems somehow to stem from her larger love of social responsibility — this jowly, impulsive, persistent guy seems so desperately to need cool-headed balance in his life, which she sees herself as able to provide. But Giamatti is great here, showing Barney as lit from within when he’s around her, and demonstrating how as the years pass he slowly looses his grip on her until she slips away.

It’s Barney’s relationship with his dad Izzy (Dustin Hoffman), a retired cop, that’s instead the film’s true heart. I don’t know how plausible the idea of Hoffman siring Giamatti is in terms of the two actors’ physicality, but the idea makes sense, and the scenes with the two of them are categorically moving. Barney is ferociously protective of his widowed working class father, particularly when he gets involved with his unnamed second wife, whose wealthy parents look down on Izzy’s tales of crime and punishment and police brutality.

12032010_barneysversion3.jpgAt dinner with them for the first time, Izzy is called out by the patriarch for saying that he never made detective on the force because he’s Jewish — maybe it was his conduct, the other man suggests, that kept him from succeeding professionally. Izzy looks at his son and then swallows his pride and then genuflects to the rich asshole so that things can continue smoothly. Izzy returns the favor at the wedding when his father-in-law tries to cut the two of them off at the bar. Later in life, Izzy will get a glimpse of the dark side of the law his father so glibly talks about, and the man will come to his rescue once again.

So Barney’s life is marked by loving fiercely if not always well, and by yearning for art while only having a talent for business, aspects of his character that also comes into play in his relationship with his gifted, irresponsible best friend Boogie, which provides the frame to which this shaggy dog story is leashed. It’s another underdeveloped thread that can’t provide the closure it’s meant to, but by that point it’s incidental. It’s Barney, despite and because of all his failings and disappointments, that we care about, and that’s really a credit to Giamatti’s marvelous performance.

“Barney’s Version” is now playing in New York and Los Angeles, and will open for a wider run January 14th.

Neurotica_105_MPX-1920×1080

New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

Posted by on

Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

IFC_CC_Neurotica_Series_Image4

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

Neurotica_series_image_1

IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

Posted by on
Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

via GIPHY

Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

via GIPHY

via GIPHY

Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

via GIPHY

And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

PL_409_MPX-1920×1080

Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

Posted by on
GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

via GIPHY

Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

via GIPHY

Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

via GIPHY

Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

via GIPHY

Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

via GIPHY

If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.