Just a usual Sunday at the Jacob Burns Film Center. The place was packed with movie lovers. A select group of donors were lunching upstairs with Robert Redford. Some were there just for a good movie and then another group, our group had a special event combination: a new movie,” Barney’s Version” and then an interview with its star, Paul Giamatti.
We arrived early enough to get close enough to the front of the line to grab our favorite seats once the house doors opened. Once the theater went dark and to movie began It did take me a while to get connected to it, but with patience, I found the movie’s center, powered of course, by great acting. Barney is hard to like, let alone love, but when he meets “the one”, Miriam at the marriage ceremony to his second wife played by Minnie Driver. Once his relationship to Miriam takes center stage the characters unfold: demanding Barney and stoic, composed, Miriam. And Dustin Hoffman appears often dazzling us as Barney’s loving father and I was in.
When the credits rolled I was softly sobbing and with chairs being set on the stage for Janet Maslin to interview Paul Giamatti, I was ready to applaud him for his work that has been publicly acknowledged with a Golden Globe best actor nomination for his Barney.
Okay, lights up! A burst of sound, we are on our feet, Paul looks relaxed and a regular guy and it’s all down hill.
Janet Maslin, New Times movie and book critic has been a big supporter at the Burns and usually interviews the stars. I often find her surprisingly unimaginative in this role, but she is always positive. Yesterday, for the first time, she wasn’t. Paul G. is a star and he is modest about it; just a guy who works hard and loves making movies. This was a good movie and he was wonderful. It was clear that Janet didn’t think so. From the start, she put down the screenplay and encouraged Paul to agree with her. How ridiculous, he was the star and sitting there to be the film’s cheerleader. She set an odd tone and it seemed disrespectful. Afterall, she was not wearing a reviewer’s hat now.
And then the conversation moved from begin sacrcastic about the quality of the piece to the issue of religion. Yes, Paul Giamatti isn’t Jewish and he played a Jew. So what? Maslin commented incorrectly that Paul had played four Jews. He, seemingly uncomfortable with this focus, corrected her. No, only 3. Wait, what about” Sideways”? No, that character was not Jewish. “Really, but what about that mother? She seemed to be one of those…” The audience gasped.
What was going on?
What an odd experience that seemed to leave us all feeling strange.
But Bravo to Paul Giamatti!
I think I need to send a version of this to the Burns directly.
Have a good one,