Barton Fink (1991) Movie Review

Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Writer: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (Screenplay)

Starring: John Turturro, John Goodman, Judy Davis, Michael Lerner, John Mahoney, Tony Shalhoub, Jon Polito, Steve Buscemi

Plot: A renowned New York playwright is enticed to California to write for the movies and discovers the hellish truth of Hollywood.


Tagline – What’s in his head

Runtime: 1 Hour 56 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Coen’s at Their Best

Story: Barton Fink starts as New York playwright Barton Fink (Turturro) whose latest play has seen him get the most praise. Barton gets encouraged to head to California to write movies, which would cover him for years to come on the stages of New York. Barton put up in a small hotel, gets given his first assignment, a wrestling picture, something he knows nothing about.

Barton bonds with his insurance salesman neighbour Charlie Meadows (Goodman) who always seems to have inspiration for this story, while meeting authors he idolises, waiting for his big break in the industry, meeting different producers who shows him the hellish process Hollywood can be.

Thoughts on Barton Fink

Characters – Barton Fink is the latest praised playwright in New York, he knows he can be a success on the stage only he gets encouraged to head to the Hollywood boom to make serious money with his writing skills. Barton learns quickly that he isn’t prepared for the demands of writing script especially when he doesn’t know the material they want him to write about, he struggles to settle in the area and the cheap hotel they put him up in, he only makes one friend and sees how the people in the industry always say what you want to say. Charlie Meadows is the hotel neighbour and insurance salesman that befriends Barton, the two often spend the nights talking about life’s events, while Charlie pushes Barton to become more confident. Audrey Taylor is the wife of one of the most famous authors Barton meets, he wants to use her as his muse after seeing how badly she is abused by her partner. Jack Lipnick is the producer that hires Barton, he demands the work and unlike most writers that he hires, he keeps up on Barton’s work.

PerformancesJohn Turturro in the leading role is excellent, we can see him unravelling at the seams as he starts to lose his mind in the writing process. John Goodman is wonderful too as the friendly neighbour with a secret behind his kind-nature. When it comes to the rest of the cast we get some wonderful performance that send us into the era perfectly.

StoryThe story here sees a playwright trying his hand at writing movies in the booming industry, only to learn the level of control he really has on what he write and how much time he has to get the work done. This is a story about the movie making process, while we focus more on the writing side of the filmmaking, it is focused on how being locked away in a new city can drive somebody slightly crazy. It is the story arcs that happen around the writing which become most interesting as we see just how things are never quite as they seem, this is Coen Brothers are their best, spinning what could be a routine story that sees things turned on their head.

ComedyThe comedy is the black comedy type, where we see just how twisted the comedy ends up being, with John Goodman getting most of the laughs in the film.

SettingsThe LA setting shows what it would have been like in the early stages of the Hollywood boom, the era feels nature through the film.


Scene of the Movie – Flaming hallways.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The cops are too accusation heavy.

Final Thoughts This is a dark comedy that works very well, it hits the heights every time it needs to thanks to the leading performances from Turturro and Goodman that are outstanding through the film.

Overall: Brilliant Comedy.

One comment on “Barton Fink (1991) Movie Review

  1. Pingback: Barton Fink (1991) Movie Review — Movie Reviews 101 | First Scene Screenplay Festival

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