Sunday, October 25, 2009

Barton Fink (1991)


New York playwright, Barton Fink (John Tuturro) has just finished his first widely successful play on the modern working man. He is given a heavy contract with Hollywood to write a wrestling picture for them, but he struggles to determine what is expect of him, and suffers from writer's block. Seeking solace in his heavy drinking, car insurance salesman, neighbor Charlie (John Goodman), and the secretary of another successful playwright, Audrey (Judy Davis).

Going into Barton Fink I had no idea what it was about, I know it had something to do with a playwright and that it starred a personal favorite of mine (excluding some of his more recent films) John Tuturro. In hindsight that was probably a mistake... I've stated on here before I'm rather grumpy when it comes to interpretational films, mostly because they often come off as self important with a heavy handed moral agenda masked by the selling of none. It takes a lot to put me into the mood to really hop into the subtext of a film, and maybe 4-5 films I've seen in my lifetime have pulled it off. Anyways, no ranting needed, Barton Fink is definitely a unique flair of a film, entertaining in its intrigue, and oddly mysterious.

As a character Fink isn't all that interesting, he's heavy in ideology, weak in action, not that observant, and sort of annoying. To make up for this the Coen brothers provide us Charlie. Charlie's tough, funny, off the cuff, likable, but at the same time we're not sure if we trust him, and in that the two provide a solid odd couple, and their moments together are probably the film's highlights (especially the final conversation). Their unveiling, and struggles makes us wonder what this mysterious world, filled with empty hallways, and crazed characters, holds. The certain flair and intrigue is aided by Coen brothers knack for setting up shots, best of all when their film is lacking in the writing department.

What keeps Barton Fink from being boring, or dull, lies in several great laughs with the absurd characters to bring them home. The film's intrigue comes from great directing, and without it I can't see audiences staying awake unless they are really into this genre of film. The main problem I ran into with this film is that I found the side characters more interesting than the main one. Sure Tuturro is masterful, but the character is dull, not really likable, and really never does anything (literally and metaphorically). I'm sure if I was to bother to dwelve into this film's analogies, subtext, and such I'd enjoy it quite a bit more, analyzing each scene with careful critique, but the movie just didn't inspire me to do it. Because of that I struggle to recommend the film beyond those to who are already fans of the genre, but hey, they've probably already seen it.

Heavy on interpretation, Barton Fink is an entertaining and mysterious film that will probably encompass all range of emotions (pure hatred to absolute obsession) for the viewers... it's just where on the line you'll fit is unpredictable at best.

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