Barton Fink – 1991 – Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen – Starring John Tuturro and John Goodman
In 1941, a hotshot playwright named Barton Fink (Tuturro) is plucked from broadway and brought to Los Angeles to write for a big movie studio. Out of his element, he soon develops writers block while living in the most dingy, depressing hotel room imaginable. However, he finds inspiration and friendship in his neighbor Charlie Meadows (Goodman), who is both affable and apart. Then he finds love in the form of the muse of his literary hero (Judy Davis). Then things get weird in a uniquely Coen-esque type of way. There’s sex, murder, a mysterious package, and an ending that will put you in front of your computer 2 minutes later typing “Barton Fink ending explained“.
While I won’t go ahead and spoil anything, I will say that this is an extremely engaging film. It is rich in themes and motifs that any movie nerd can geek out on. But like most Coen brothers films, it takes patience to enjoy. Tuturro is very good as the neurotic and pretentious Barton Fink, but John Goodman’s performance as Charlie Meadows (or is it Karl Munt?) is unforgettable. The Coen brothers re-creation of 1940’s L.A. and the “old Hollywood” is also fascinating. Michael Lerner’s role as Jack Lipnick, your everyday egotistical studio executive, netted him an oscar nomination for best supporting actor. Oh, and Steve Buscemi pops in for a few lines!
Barton Fink is also a good precursor to Fargo, which the Coen’s would win the best picture oscar for 5 years later. The film is funny, thoughtful, and extremely dark. But you probably need to watch it twice to get the full effect. To the casual movie watcher, it may drag on at times.
Barton Fink is my fifth Coen brothers film – along with Fargo, The Big Lebowski, The Ladykillers, and No Country for Old Men – but it will not be my last.