Barton Fink (1991)
Review by HTQ4

Written by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen
Original Music by Carter Burwell
Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Starring John Turturro, John Goodman, Judy Davis, Michael Lerner, John Mahoney, Tony Shaloub, and Steve Buscemi


Released by: Fox
Rating: R
Region: 1
Anamorphic: Yes
My Advice: Own it

Barton Fink (Turturro) is Broadway's hottest new playwright of 1941. Needless to say, Hollywood calls on him immediately to come out and write for the movies. There's one little problem; he is not a writer for the money. He is trying to write plays for and about the common man; you know, trying to make a difference in society. Against his better judgement, he goes out to Hollywood to begin writing for film, but his first project (which happens to be about a wrestler) finds him plagued with writer's block. Enter Charlie Meadows (Goodman), his neighbor in the Hotel Earle. Charlie is an insurance salesman who decides to help Fink with his little problem.

I have a confession. I had not seen this movie until my viewing it for this review. In a very Coen Brothers way, this is one of the funniest movies I've ever seen. The comedy is very cerebral and is so full of imagery and metaphor I get the feeling that I'm going to watch it again and again to see what I missed the previous time. The imagery of Fink's hell of a world falling apart around him is so thick you can wade through it, but it doesn't overpower the story or the comedy. Turturro and Goodman are perfect in their roles in this movie. Not only that, but they take the time with their performances to do something that many actors in Hollywood spend a lifetime to perfect: listening. Not only that, but Turturro spends most of his time in this movie without dialogue and he fills every last moment with story. I will say this, don't expect it to move along at a clip. It's not a fast paced comedy by any stretch of the imagination, but it gets you hooked and keeps you hooked.

The one thing the DVD is missing is a commentary track from the Coen Brothers. It sure would have been nice to get them into a studio and let them talk about how they came up with the idea and their thoughts on directing it. Alas, we are left wondering what went on inside their heads with this one. Instead, this disc only provides us with eight deleted scenes. In this case, I can honestly say that I don't think the film would have been better with the deleted scenes back in the movie, but it also didn't hurt it to take them out, either.

It would have been nice to have the deleted scenes wrapped up with some optional commentary from the Coens, but again, we are left guessing and wondering. Since the Coens have only recently started doing commentary tracks at all, it would have been worthwhile as well to get Turturro and Goodman behind some mics, if nothing else. Even a making of docu would have been a welcome addition in this case. The still gallery and theatrical trailers are pretty common features on DVDs these days, and these are really nothing special either. Honestly, this DVD could have and should have been much better; the movie warrants a much better treatment of the film.

If you like the Coen Brothers' work, this should definitely be in your collection, even if the DVD is not fantastic. If you are still not sure, it's okay to rent it first, but be ready to buy it when you take it back to the rental store.

Discuss the review in the Gabfest!

Greetings to our visitors from the IMDB, OFCS, and Rotten Tomatoes!
Stick around and have some coffee!