WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Barton Fink (Turturro) is a famed New York playwright who gets swayed by Hollywood to write for the “pictures”. Once there, he encounters severe writer’s block, deals with a maniacal movie exec, encounters a strange and overly friendly neighbor (Goodman) and begins to unravel faster than the cheap wallpaper in the apartment of his seedy L.A. hotel.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
After Woody Allen, the Coen Bros. are the two living filmmakers whose films I admire and enjoy the most. Be it the wacky (and touching) RAISING ARIZONA or the brilliant (yes, I wrote brilliant) THE BIG LEBOWSKI and O, BROTHER WHERE ART THOU?, time and again they provide entertaining, humorous and very original movies with razor sharp dialogue and probably the best assortment of actors one can hope to find in the movies. BARTON FINK, I suppose, might be best described as a character study, but that would be overly simplifying a film that has more layers than Martin Lawrence on his morning jog (I’m sorry, I know-- I’m no Dennis Miller). It’s as much about obsession and madness as it is about longing, loneliness and love. Either that or I’m completely in the dark about the movie...
You see, it’s also a very subtle film and one viewing isn’t enough to completely appreciate what it has to offer. Believe me, as a writer who’s stared at more blank pages than (Dennis, are you there?), it’s certainly interesting to see a man losing touch with the world around him and living in a surreal and unbalanced frame of mind. Every time I watch this movie, I fall more and more in love with it, so either it’s a well acted, beautifully directed and intensely powerful comedy/drama...or I need female companionship more than Hugh Grant at the red-light district in Amsterdam (damn, that’s dated)! One last comment (before I head off to the comedy club) on the film, the acting in BARTON FINK is of the highest quality right across the board. How John Goodman & Turturro didn’t get nominated (and win!?) for this movie is a mystery. Thankfully it did win the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1991 as well as best director and actor at said festival (You see, the French can appreciate more than just cheese and wine and Jerry Lewis). Michael Lerner did however, thankfully, pick up an Oscar nomination for his role as the head of the movie studio; the man had me in stitches, he’s in only 3 scenes in the movie and managed to almost steal the show. Oh, and Judy Davis is as perfect and cute as ever.
As in any Coen brothers movie, it’s the writing that’s the star of this show and you should give this one a try on that point alone, never mind the other two dozens reasons. This movie is a gem!
Not much here for us devoted Coen followers but 8 deleted scenes, a stills gallery and some other Coen bros. movie trailers (I’d never seen the RAISING ARIZONA trailer before and it’s a goddamn hoot, let me tell ya). I enjoyed the deleted scenes a lot, mostly because they’re placed “in reference” as to where they would have been in the film. They are preceded and followed by an already existing black & white scene from the movie. More deleted scenes on DVD’s should include this idea of placing the cut scene in its proper context. But on the whole, I was very disappointed by these extras, no interviews, no commentaries, no punch, no pie…
Forget the extras, the film alone is reason enough to rent or buy this DVD. It’s a must-see for anyone who appreciates great storytelling, writing, directing and acting from their movies. I’ve watched it several times and it gets better each time around, check it out, let it sink in and hopefully you too will be mesmerized by the absolute genius of these brothers when they’re at their very best.