‘Barton Fink’ (1991) by the Coen Brothers

Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Cinematography: Roger Deakins

Writers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Stars: John Torturro, John Goodman, Judy Davis, Michael Lerner, Tony Shalhoub

Rating: 91

Coming to the conclusions in ‘Barton Fink’ is a damn good time. Finding those previous suspicions about the auspicious imagery and the oddities in which Barton Fink (John Torturro) world is suffocated. The intense heat constantly ripping off the wallpaper coupled with the many brash noises coming from Fink’s next door neighbor, Charlie Meadows (John Goodman), creates this hellish environment that is nonevasive.

Barton Fink is filled with bold characters with even bolder performances out of this amazing ensemble. Each passing scene and interaction intrigues because of the curiosity of the characters. Meeting the network president Jack Lipnick (Michael Lerner) in his bright shining office is utter-brilliance. The moment a character is introduced they pop out and steal your complete attention.

For example, John Goodman, as the unrelenting neighbor, speaking on behalf of the working man, listening to Torturro’s prophetic messaging throughout their many interactions. The moment Fink hears heavy, psychotic laughter coming from his neighbor and calls the front desk leads to one excellently crafted moment in the film. The best part of the Meadows introduction is it’s set up to be a horrifying, story-altering moment, but it turns out the two bond over a common work ethic. Its terrific character writing from the Coens.

  • Back to the cast, it was truly a terrific mix of talented actors.
  • The only downside is Torturro’s performance is the weakest of the bunch, and he’s supposed to carry the story. However, he was the right cast for that part and got some unbelievable performances from his supporting crew.
  • Switching gears here to the man, the myth, the legend, Roger Deakins, and his interior work on this film to mangle this radical set of characters together. The angles of the shots do enhance the feeling of those big moments. Charlie Meadows, dead center of the frame, running down the fire hallway was some real Satanic shit.
  • That brings me to another fabulous point (SPOILER), Charlie Meadows is not only some deranged serial killer but a Nazi. The Coen’s go DARK out of nowhere in this film.

  • And, for the Coen’s range of screenplays, from ‘Blood Simple’ to ‘No Country For Old Men,’ Barton Fink rates heavily on the over-the-top side of the Coen’s filmography. However, that’s one of my favorite aspects of the third film. The characters are so memorable. Coen’s did an excellent job capturing this nasty yet unrestrained world in Barton Fink.
  • Lastly, the things Barton holds dearly, watching him try and discover himself only to be rated as a “B-movie screenwriter” is perfect. It leads to the picture in the frame with the girl on the beach. His self-expression held up in that image and the meaning of Fink’s existence. It’s explored throughout this batshit, crazy of an experience.
  • Ok, ONE more thing, John Goodman laid the groundwork for his later role in ‘The Big Lebowski.’ The two Goodman Coen roles are some of the best in history. The brothers had a great handle on his value as an actor.


One of the best of an unbelievable career from Joel and Ethan Coen. It’s also an early film and it’s great to watch the evolution of two fantastic narrative minds. As I said in the review, this was finding their level, and by going bold it allowed them to make wildly interesting punchy characters. A great film with intrigue-ridden performances. See it NOW!

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