Based on a novel of the same name, by the notable Canadian author Mordecai Richler, Barney’s Version is a mixed blessing. The film enjoys a decorated cast, including names such as Paul Giamatti, Dustin Hoffman and Minnie Driver. It has a mostly solid storyline, yet, feels often as a long novel compacted into a tiring 132 minutes. As typical with other Richler works (e.g. The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Joshua Then and Now,) Barney's Version busies itself with Jewish life in Montreal. It sketches a portrait of a specific character, in this case Barney Panofsky, as it goes through life’s journey. While a hero in most stories is identified as the character that undergoes a change, what may single Barney out is his lack of change, while everything around him seems to move on.
At its heart Barney's Version is a love story that edges into family relations, growing up and apart, friendship and matters of crime. Towards its end the film drags into an over-sentimentality which, as touching as it is, does the characters injustice. All in all it does not seem the book transformed well into a movie format. It may have been better off with a complete rewrite than jam-pack too many details into a tight format.
With that said, its an enjoyable, even if tiring experience, so long as you have your expectations set up right.