Barney Panofsky's entire life is a mess, from his youthful days in Rome spent abusing alcohol, tobacco, drugs and sex to his final years as an ailing man who can barely recall the most important and tragic moments of his existence. The constants that represent this man are booze, cigars and his love of hockey, a sport which he is seemingly much more concerned with than even his own wedding, his 2nd, at which he also pursues his future 3rd. His job as a successful television producer for his company Totally Unnecessary Productions (they produce terrible soap operas) gives him little joy. In fact, it is difficult to comprehend what a life like Barney Panofsky's is really worth, or to understand what makes him get out of bed in the morning.
After a failed marriage in his youth Barney has a second go at it with a wealthy Jewish woman (Minnie Driver) who for reasons unknown does seem genuinely interested in this man, however it is soon clear that Barney has no interest in her. While drunk at his wedding Barney notices a beautiful young guest, Miriam (Rosamund Pike) and he falls instantly in love. The rest of the movie spends much time on their subsequent relationship.
The film feels a little long but not because it tries to do too much, simply because it packs in SOOO many layers, each tier dealing with a heavier and heavier emotional output. By the end of this film you may not actually be crying but you will probably feel like you are sore from laughing, cringing, and at time feeling like you were punched in the gut. It is to the credit of Oscar nominated actor Giamatti that we feel these real emotions as his performance is nothing short of incredible. I am reminded very much of a small film I enjoyed called Cold Souls, in which Giamatti is able to really take us through an emotional piece of work in a sly way. This movie never quite catches up to his wonderful performance, but everything does work well and when it is over you won't feel cheated. Barney's version is explained in the end.