Barney's Version Movie Poster Image

Barney's Version



Mature dramedy is well acted but may not interest teens.
  • Review Date: January 10, 2011
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 132 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Ultimately, not much is learned or accomplished here. Characters behave terribly -- but also warmly from time to time; it's messy, but so is life.

Positive role models

Barney behaves badly and/or makes mistakes throughout the film, and he never seems to learn from any of them, although he does generally pay a price for his behavior. He's successful in business and also acts bravely and lovingly from time to time, but overall, his general character could be summed up as someone you don't want your kids to be like.


Plenty of shouting and arguing. A gun is pulled in one scene, though the resulting violence occurs off-screen, with no blood shown.


Viewers see two sex acts in progress and one about to occur, but true nudity is limited to one scene with a topless woman and some nude paintings. Frequent sex talk and sexual innuendo. The main character is married to three women during the course of the movie and is said to have had sex with all of them, as well as with a fourth woman.


Strong, frequent swearing includes "f--k," "s--t," "c--ksucker," "prick," "son of a bitch," "t-ts," "schtupping," "schmuck," "p---y," "vagina," "a--hole," "hell," and "Jesus Christ" (used as an exclamation).

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters drink almost constantly, often to the point of drunkenness. The hero goes to a bar to watch hockey and get drunk; he also drinks in restaurants and at home. He also smokes cigars almost constantly. A secondary character is shown to be an addict, and drugs such as "horse" (heroin), opium, and hash are mentioned.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this Paul Giamatti dramedy based on the novel by Mordecai Richler is heavy on strong language (including "f--k" and "s--t") and sexual innuendo and situations (including a scene of a topless woman). There's also some violence (a gun is brandished, and there's lots of arguing), as well as almost constant drinking and smoking, and one character is an addict. Teens may not be sucked in by the story of a middle-aged ne'er-do-well anyway.

What's the story?

Barney Panofsky (Paul Giamatti) begins his adult life by taking a soulless but successful job in television and marrying his pregnant, no-good girlfriend. It ends in disaster. Later, he agrees to marry a second woman (Minnie Driver), but on his wedding night, he falls instantly and helplessly in love with a third woman, Miriam (Rosamund Pike), and starts pursuing her. Years later, he runs into competition for Miriam's affections in the form of gentle Blair (Bruce Greenwood). All the while, Barney must deal with the mysterious, violent disappearance of his best friend, "Boogie" (Scott Speedman); with the oddball advice of his loving, good-hearted father (Dustin Hoffman); and with the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

Is it any good?


Mordecai Richler's 1997 novel Barney's Version -- which BARNEY'S VERSION is based on -- plays with the idea of the "unreliable narrator." Barney tells his story after the onset of Alzheimer's disease, and then his notes are re-edited by his son, so it's hard to know what's 100% accurate. It's an interesting approach, so it's unfortunate that the movie doesn't embrace it, instead using the Alzheimer's mostly as a sympathy-getting plot device.

While some of the characters are well-drawn and others are thin, the cast as a whole is game, and the actors -- notably Giamatti, Hoffman, and Driver -- shine in their roles. (Giamatti's make-up is also especially good, and he's believable at every age.) While the movie has some strong laughs, especially at the beginning, director Richard J. Lewis has a little trouble balancing the  film's inherent comedy and drama. He also lets the movie run too long, which undermines the goodwill the characters have drummed up. But, going back to the cast, at least the actors playing those characters are all worth watching!

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about whether Barney is a strong or likeable character. What does he do to earn viewers' interest or admiration? What does he do wrong throughout his life? Does he learn anything? Do his mistakes make him more or less appealing?

  • Why do you think Barney and all his friends drink so much? What consequences does it have in their movie lives? What consequences might it have in real life?

  • Barney meets many women during his life. How does he know that Miriam is the one that he's truly in love with? What does he do to deserve her love?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:January 14, 2011
DVD release date:June 28, 2011
Cast:Dustin Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Rosamund Pike
Director:Richard J. Lewis
Studio:Sony Pictures Classics
Run time:132 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language and some sexual content

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written byslow man July 16, 2011


What other families should know
Great role models
Parent Written bygrapelover46 September 14, 2012

Movie with cursing may not be appropiate for kids under 16.

What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Adult Written bykhan2705 June 1, 2011

a well acted mature and smart drama-comedy.

This seriocomic adaptation of Mordecai Richler's award-winning 1997 novel stars Paul Giamatti as Barney Panofsky, who meets the great love of his life, Miriam (Rosamund Pike), at the most inopportune time imaginable: his marriage to his second wife (Minnie Driver), a wealthy Jewish princess and compulsive shopper. Narrated by Barney as a confessional, the film covers 30 years of his unusual journey -- from his first marriage to the chronically unfaithful free spirit Clara (Rachelle Lefevre) and their life in Italy together, through his third marriage to Miriam, with whom he has two children. Standing in the wings is Barney's father, Izzy (Dustin Hoffman), who continues to stick by him as his loyal right-hand man. Through it all, Barney experiences numerous highs and lows, but manages to consistently surprise everyone with unforeseen acts of altruism and kindness that turn him into the quintessential modern hero. among all this yea's movies i have seen, this is the most surprisingly good. i wasn't expecting much from the movie. i found this movie surprisingly excellent move, starts off just okay but gets good evenly. this movie combines these genres comedy, drama and romance in such a way you fall in love with this movie. a very intelligent approach by the writers and directors of making this smartly witty and tragic movie at the same time. i hardly remember any recent character that effected me or i kind of observed deeply without forcing myself to than Barney. he is flawed but shockingly a bit of us in him if you see. movie is long could have been a bit shorter but still i wasn't bored or found myself forcing to see this movie. after a while i found it interesting and i was enjoying it than. this movie is one of the best movie of the year. a very affective indie dramedy that i loved. i already thought this would be my favorite January movie of the year, and it is. Paul Giamatti is brilliant, superb, outstanding and just pure good as Barney Panofsky an angry hard drinking man. he marries the unfaithful Clara played by Rachelle Lefevre, then he marries Minnie Driver's character she is a rich daughter of some Jew rich man and yes she is a shop and again very annoying. but there is another thing, he meets the actual love of his life on the day he is marrying, weird but turth, she is Miriam Grant Panofsky, played by Rosamund Pike. movie also stars Dustin Hoffman, Scott Speedman , Bruce Greenwood , Macha Grenon , Anna Hopkins , Jake Hoffman , Mark Addy and others. i honestly loved performances in this movie. Paul Giamatti according to me is a very underrated actor, he proved consistently how great he can perform. i loved him in this movie, he played Barney like he was him. thats superb. Dustin Hoffman is a scene stellar as his father, he performed good. Minnie and Rachelle were honestly just okay but it was Rosamund that severely shocked me with her brilliant screen presence and her beautiful and honest performance. she was awsome. superb performances. directed very good by Richard J. Lewis, written excellently. good screenplay with hardly any or much problems with it. edited well. superb cinematography, make up and art direction. good score too. plot is good and the events really well make you enjoy this movie. i felt really empathic for this very unlikable character. very emotional towards the end i just loved this movie.superb movie very good.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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