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'Barney's Version' big and messy

Paul Giamatti stars in Barney's Version, the adaptation of the 1997 novel by the late Canadian writer Mordecai Richler.

Giamatti, who won a Golden Globe for his performance in the film, plays Barney, the son of a Montreal policeman (Dustin Hoffman) who meets his third wife, Miriam (Rosamund Pike), at his second wedding. Barney is a short, overweight and often disheveled Jewish fellow with a big heart. Miriam is cool and tall, the polar opposite of the boisterous producer of TV soaps. Yet somehow the two connect.

He falls in love with her as his bride (Minnie Driver) is braying in the background. Then, after he has pursued Miriam for years, she falls for him.

You know, however, that the restless, perpetually slightly dissatisfied Barney will stray again.

The movie from Richard J. Lewis — which takes place over a number of decades — is a bit of a shambling affair itself, more or less tied together by some fun, offbeat moments and some fine acting.

Giamatti is above all ferocious in his commitment to the role, and just watching him might be enough. But Barney is an enigma through which this seriocomedy with its bizarre murder mystery flows. If that sounds confusing, it should be. The filmmakers try a little too hard to make some sense out of it. The film could have been more like the character — unpredictable.

Barney's Version retails for $38.96 for a DVD/Blu-ray combo.

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