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Barton Fink

  R Closed Captioning

Joel Coen

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Plot Summary

The title character, played by John Turturro, is a Broadway playwright, based on Clifford Odets, lured to Hollywood with the promise of untold riches by a boorish studio chieftain (played by Michael Lerner as a combination of Louis B. Mayer and Harry Cohn). Despising the film capital and everything it stands for, Barton Fink comes down with an acute case of writer's block. He is looked after by a secretary (Judy Davis) who has been acting as a ghost writer for an alcoholic screenwriter (John Mahoney, playing a character based on William Faulkner). Also keeping tabs on Fink is a garrulous traveling salesman (John Goodman), the most likeable, stable character in the picture. And then comes the plot twist to end all plot twists, plunging Barton Fink into a surreal nightmare that would make Hieronymus Bosch look like a house painter. Once more, Ethan and Joel Coen serve up a smorgasbord of quirkiness and kinkiness, where nothing is what it seems and nothing turns out as planned.

Rotten Tomatoes Movie Reviews

TOMATOMETER

91%
  • Reviews Counted: 54
  • Fresh: 49
  • Rotten: 5
  • Average Rating: 7.6/10

Top Critics' Reviews

Fresh: It's an exhilarating original. – Vincent Canby, New York Times, Jul 16, 2008

Fresh: Partly hilarious, partly horrific, totally mesmerizing. – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone, Nov 24, 2006

Fresh: Gnomic, claustrophobic, hallucinatory, just plain weird, it is the kind of movie critics can soak up thousands of words analyzing and cinephiles can soak up at least three espressos arguing their way through. – Richard Schickel, TIME Magazine, Jun 24, 2010

Fresh: Scene after scene is filled with a ferocious strength and humor. – Variety Staff, Variety, Jul 7, 2010

Read More About This Movie On Rotten Tomatoes

Customer Reviews

Why the almighty created cellulose acetate

Folks who write bad reviews of this film indeed, as some of them have apologized, "just don't get it." Their need for a simple, jaunty tale that ends in absurdly simplistic ways and catatonically neutralizes whatever interpretive faculties they possess is tragic. But it shouldn't be a barrier to those who want to watch this film. No, no, no. _Cliff Notes_: This is largely a work of Absurdism which, at least in its final moments, mocks our need to make coherence of chaos. In other words, just enjoy the ride, amigos, and let the insane be just that. Don't try to make meaning of madness lest ye become mad yeself! This is a fantastic feat of filmmaking, brilliant and memorable. It's incredibly imaginative, dauntingly well-written, and captures the Hollywood of the 1940s with aplomb. The Faulkner character alone, who is spot-on, makes this film worth watching. So my babies, remember, just 'cause The Rock ain't flexin' in it, there's no superhero, and the end isn't la dee da reunion-kiss-hug-credits don't mean nothin'. Those of you who don't like this film, just go play with your ball, let the rest of us enjoy this modern classic, and don't dissaude folks who might want to be exposed to it for the first time. For the bold, of course, but worth a look-see. C'mon. Join the initiated ... I promise you'll get to see John Goodman torch a hotel Carrie-style. Cross my heart.

One of Their Best

Barton Fink stands out as a masterpiece, even within the cannon of Coen Brother's films. The Coen's have (almost) always made thinking-man's movies, and this is no exception. Top notch acting from the entire cast, especially Turtorro (who won best actor at the Cannes Film Festival for his performance) and Steve Buscemi, who is underused in the film but never underappreciated as a bimbo-bellboy named "Chet." While there are some particularly laughable moments, I would never go so far to call Barton Fink a comedy; if it is, then it is among the blackest ever made. You can't go wrong with this movie.

Not for everybody

Those who call people idiots for not understanding the morality projected, it's okay. The film truly isn't for everybody. My interpretation is this: we are embarked on a journey of Barton's vision of hell. The shoddy Hotel Earle that Barton stays represents hell. The bellhop arrives from under the desk, the place is always hot and humid, the place is then set on fire, all these examples embody the incarnation of hell. The moment he sets foot in the place he is struck with severe writer's block, his discovery that his personal role model W.P. Mayhew (Faulkner-type character) is only a fallen over drunk who hasn't wrote a book himself in a while and that it has been his amorous secretary, and the overwhelming pressure to conform to the capitolist filmakers, are all prime examples of this surrealist loony, vision of hell. Most people believe that Charlie Meadows is the Devil, but I think he is a demon, while Lipnick is the actual devil for the reason he condemns Baarton to his holding cell in the quickly changing Hollywood industry. And the ending in which Barton sees the girl in the novelty painting on the beach, represents the fact he will never leave...Hell.

Barton Fink
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  • $14.99
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Released: 2003

Customer Ratings

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