Barton Fink (1991) (R)
"Barton Fink" is an interesting film, perhaps even indescribable. It has large themes that enforce the picture and lead to an ending that is, at best, up for scrutiny.
Our lead man is the title character of the film and he has just penned a very successful play that won over popular and critical appeal on broadway in New York. But he feels that he hasn't really done anything with his life so far—he wants to make an impact with his writing and this is easy to empathize with because everyone who has done any writing feels the same way. But Barton takes it a step further, he feels that the common man is the one who should be celebrated in plays instead of nobility figures that are impossible to relate to. He wishes to change the face of theater.
But he's short on money and the opportunity arises for him to write a screenplay for an up and coming film studio...keep in mind that this movie is set in 1941. So he gets handed a project about a wrestler and settles into a nice comfortable niche of writer's block.
He rents a room in a hotel that looks like a slimy version of the hotel from "The Shining", mosquitos abound and bite Barton's face during the night and the wallpaper starts to peel because of the heat.
There is an interesting shot of a waves crashing into the side of a rock on a beach that disappears into the rest of the movie until the end when it's brought back up to try to evoke something in the viewer—which, for me, failed. But this imagery of beaches and the ocean is all throughout "Barton Fink". Barton will sit in his room and stare at his typewriter, wanting something to happen and then he'll look up and see a painting of a woman sitting on a beach, looking out to the ocean and he will hear the waves crashing in the distance.
The hotel in question has a peculiar man working it, Chet (the always intriguing Steve Buscemi), who appears to handle all of the hotel's needs, for we never see anyone else.
In the room next to Barton is Charlie Meadows, a large man who adds to the weirdness of the movie.
Although Barton is a very shy man and quirky; he does get very passionate when he talks about his ideas and the common man. His ideology is very strong and he will not let it go—which is why he's having such a hard time with this movie script...it's hard to write other people's words for them.
All this time, it would seem that Barton is lacking something that will help him be able to write the screenplay he needs to—whether that's empathy or not (which is what I think), we are never really told.
Much of this movie is played out in symbols and metaphors like the heavy handed references to hell that would imply that writing really isn't that great of a job.
"Barton Fink" comes to us from the Coen brothers who have proved themselves well capable of making original movies. Like one of their previous works "Raising Arizona", "Barton Fink" seems to enjoy playing with the supernatural a little without committing fully to it.
The most enjoyable part of "Barton Fink" was Michael Lerner as Jack Lipnick, a movie executive, whose style of back talking is more accentuated in the Coen's latter work, "Fargo".
"Barton Fink" seems slightly autobiographical from the writer/director team. They really stress what an unpleasant thing writing a screenplay is; and it would seem that the intricate workings of Hollywood studios are taken right from their experiences.
"Barton Fink" is supposed to be funny, although I found it anything but. It has no real moments that I laughed at, save one slapstick, morbid moment.
I cannot say that I understand the movie or would really want to see it again. I have my opinion on the film; but I don't know if I'm right or not.
"Barton Fink"'s outlandishness and unrivaled turmoil are actually the picture's downfall. I found it too long, too frustrating, and not enjoyable enough to recommend.
Score: 2 out of 4 stars
Posted by Micah Jones