Paul Giamatti is having a great career. He has played John Adams, Harvey Pekar, and Joe Gould as well as the misanthropic wine taster in Sideways. In Barney's Version, he plays a man whose life we see develop from youth to the onset of senility. Sometimes because of certain plot elements, we wonder if the version Barney gives has something to do with a crime, but it turns out that we see things through his eyes as he falls in love and stays in love with the lovely woman he finds at his second wedding.
He really loves this woman, and she is worthy of his love, but is he worthy of hers? We are not quite sure with all the scotch drinking and cigar smoking if that is enough to understand his character. It isn’t Giamatti's fault. The men who create Barney's foursome of friends have more life together than the man and the woman at the heart of the story. The direction lingers too much on the scotch drinking and seems repetitive or draggy in ways that keep the characters from truly developing. Giamatti is a fine actor. Dustin Hoffman plays his father beautifully. (Hoffman’s son plays his grandson and is also quite good). Barney’s second wife, played by Minnie Driver, is delightful as a vulgarian with her master’s degree being waved in his face every other minute.
There are fine details and charming scenes mostly between the men which create a feeling of poignancy, of a life really being lived. For this I am grateful. A movie about a realistic person who chased a woman for years until he could marry her and never fell out of love with her, that is a sweet dream many of us could wish for. So I forgive the movie its flaws for its romanticism.