UK Release date: 14th February 1992
Watched on Sky+ Saturday 3rd March 2012.
PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
I make no secret of the fact that I’m a bit of a fan of the Coen Brothers’ films. For the most part I find them very enjoyable, really inventive and they make a nice change from the mainstream. This is no exception, I deliberately didn’t go out of my way to find out too much about it before viewing and it paid off. Great characters and a really crazy storyline combine to make for a really enjoyable film that, I’m sure, I’ll be watching again at some point. But I digress, here’s a very brief summary before I give you more of my thoughts.
Barton Fink is a playwright and after a hit on Broadway he is whisked off to Hollywood to write for a studio headed by Jack Lipnick. He is commissioned to write a ‘wrestling picture’, a B-movie, although Lipnick might dispute that label. Putting himself up in a cheap hotel away from the spotlight, Fink discovers he has a bad case of writer’s block. He strikes up a friendship with his neighbour, Charlie Meadows, who claims to be an insurance salesman. Seeking advice on his writing, he also meets once renowned author, W.P. Mayhew and his lover, Audrey Taylor. This couple have problems, not least Mayhew’s drinking, and Fink finds himself drawn to Audrey. As his deadline nears Fink becomes more and more desperate and as he calls on Audrey for help events are about to take a very dramatic turn! I will not say any more or the Spoiler Police (Coen’s Division) will be twisting my words and making this seem much more complicated than it really is.
I love the Coen’s visual style, the film looks great with, in particular, the long shots down the hotel corridor. I also thought the fire effect towards the end was excellent as well. As far as performances go, well nobody put a foot wrong; John Turturro was excellent as Barton Fink, as was John Goodman as Charlie Meadows. Also worthy of note were; Judy Davis as Audrey Taylor, Michael Lerner as Jack Lipnick, John Mahoney as W.P. Mayhew, Tony Shalhoub as Ben Geisler, Jon Polito as Lou Breeze and last but not least, Steve Buscemi as Chet.
Great performances and a great script are the main features of this rather excellent movie. You never quite know just which direction it’s going to go; all the characters appear to be larger than life and without that the film would fall flat on its face. Even the slightly timid and reserved writer, Barton Fink, reveals the passion he has for his work in a conversation he had with his hotel neighbour, Charlie Meadows. All the best lines are reserved for the studio head, Jack Lipnick, they really go to town with him! It does finish a little open-ended, something the Coen’s have been using a lot recently to varying effect (IMO), but in this case it actually works. There are many unanswered questions and, for me, that just adds to the enjoyment. Definitely worth a look and most definitely… Recommended.
My score: 9.2/10.
IMDb Score: 7.8/10 (based on 44,983 votes at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes ‘Tomatometer’ Score: 91/100 (based on 53 reviews counted at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 71/100 (based on 39,630 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).
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Jack Lipnick: We're only interested in one thing, Bart. Can you tell a story? Can you make us laugh? Can you make us cry? Can you make us want to break out in joyous song? Is that more than one thing? Okay!
Geisler: Look, you confused? You need guidance? Talk to another writer.
Geisler: Jesus, throw a rock in here, you'll hit one. And do me a favour, Fink: throw it hard.
Charlie: I pulled off early today. Took your advice, went to a doctor about this ear. He says 'You have an ear infection, ten dollars please'. So I says 'I told you I had an ear infection, you give me ten dollars!' Well that started an argument.
W.P. Mayhew: I close my eyes I can almost smell the live oak.
Audrey Taylor: That's chicken fat Bill.
W.P. Mayhew: Well my olfactory's turning womanish on me, lying and deceitful.