Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Barton Fink (1991):Between Heaven and Hell There's Always Hollywood!






















IMDB Rating  7.7/10


"Look upon me! I'll show you the life of the mind!"


Review by uk6strings-1 from The Twin Cities, Minnesota


Barton Fink is a writer, but he doesn't merely want to write - he wants to make a difference. In the 1940s, theater is filled with stories about "the fifth Earl of Bathsdrop and Lady Higgenbottom and... and... who killed Nigel Grinchgibbons" - you know, grand productions with larger than life people. Well Barton has a different main character in mind for his plays: The Common Man. His first play is a brilliant feat and critical success and he is thrust into the spotlight because of this brave departure from popular theater.

Such a success is Barton's play that Hollywood knocks on his door offering more money than Fink is used to - imagine all the plays about the common man this stint in Hollywood could finance! He accepts and goes to work on a B-movie wrestling film in a beaten down Californian hotel room, where ambiguity and mystification linger like the silence of midnight. Here, Fink not only meets some interesting characters like Charlie Meadows, Audrey Taylor, Jack Lipnick, W.P. Mayhew, and Ben Geisler; he also starts loosing his grip on reality. You will be laughing and unbelievably perplexed at Barton Fink, one of the Coen Brothers' best films.

If there was ever a film to make you think, Barton Fink is the one. The plot thickens at every unexpected turn and every frame keeps you guessing - and proving you wrong. Also, Barton Fink is not short on symbolism in the dialogue and objects on the screen. The relationships that characters have with each other are particularly fascinating and the film is packed with mind-boggling events are are difficult to fully understand. I've seen this film a few times now, and I think I might have a small handle of what's going on but there are still questions that won't go away.

In the same way, if there was ever a film to entertain, Barton Fink is the one. Despite the fact that this film can be a tad confusing, it's so well made and entertaining that you just don't care. John Turturro is great as Barton - he's nervous, likable, and very passionate about things that he really knows nothing about. John Goodman plays Charlie Meadows, Barton's hotel neighbor, a fun yet unpredictable character who seems to always be looking out for Barton's best interests. There are so many other great smaller performances throughout the film as well: Michael Lerner is explosive as Capital Pictures President Jack Lipnick; John Mahoney is great as W.P. Mayhew, the writer Barton turns to who happens to love the sauce more than his work; Judy Davis is excellent as Audrey Taylor, Mayhew's secretary who makes quite and impression on Barton; and Tony Shalhoub in particular could light up the deepest darkest part of the world with his short yet brilliant and hilarious performance as Ben Geisler.

Barton Fink is simply a well made film. The Coens' direction is spot on, the art-direction is great with lavish and interesting sets, and the film has wonderful photography from Roger Deakins in his first of many Coen Brothers films. This film ran away with The Golden Palm, Best Director, and Best Actor at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival awards and was nominated for 3 Oscars, a Golden Globe, and numerous others. After seeing Barton Fink, you will know why it's worthy of so many awards.

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