Sarah 42, Death Race 14; 18 of 24 categories completed
"Barney's Version" is not a movie to be loved from start to finish. I was annoyed by it, then I liked it, then it irritated me, then I liked it a lot. — Chris Hewitt, Pioneer Press
…That. I was bored and rapt by turns; sometimes I rooted for Barney (Paul Giamatti, in a Globe-winning performance that Academy voters for some reason passed on nominating), sometimes I wanted to punch him in the nuts. His various clueless and self-destructive acts read as sympathetic, or at least familiar, but it's not quite the character who makes the thing go — it's Giamatti, even though he spends most of the film under a truly wretched toupee. The scene during which Barney and Boogie (Scott Speedman, still adorbs), pointedly not fighting over one betrayal, proceed to fight about every single other one shows how crucial Giamatti is to the success of the film: the dialogue is a bit workshoppy and too incisive for drunk people, and Speedman is better than he's sometimes given credit for but still tends to lose nuance at high volumes. The only thing in the scene that's just right is Giamatti.
Rosamund Pike is amazing and real as the one Barney somehow didn't let get away, yet, but my favorite bit of casting is Dustin Hoffman as Panofsky Sr., a boorish retired cop. It's the first time in a while that Hoffman hasn't thrown a version of Dustin Hoffman™ up on the screen instead of acting; he's clearly having a great time.
The movie, narratively, is messy and frustrating. Decades get skipped; titular plots disappear for an hour; I guess you could call the costume design "subtle and uncliched," but the occasional bell-bottom or shoulder pad would have helped me fix the era better. Apparently the book it's based on is far superior to the film, but I haven't read the book, and the movie…well, it's like a person you love, forgetful, self-absorbed, leaves shit everywhere, but then charming and sweet too, predictable in that way only someone you love can be. It's not a great film, or criminally overlooked, but it's a worthwhile watch, for sure, because it'll get you talking.
It's up for Best Makeup, I presume for the aging of the characters, which it does realistically well. Giamatti should have at least gotten nominated, and I wonder what happened there. I wonder if the feeling was that Firth should get the win he didn't get last year, and that putting Giamatti in the category for a performance with a higher difficulty rating might mean that Firth had to go home empty-handed again. I don't know how the nominating process works or whether it's even possible to engineer things that way, but Giamatti did win the Globe, so…who knows. I like Firth's performance a lot, as I've said, but Giamatti's is more impressive.
Tags: Barney's Version Chris Hewitt Colin Firth Dustin Hoffman movies Oscars 2011 Death Race Paul Giamatti Rosamund Pike Scott Speedman