6 August 2000 | CAM-32
Top movies of the decade? The Thin Red Line, Pulp Fiction, Fargo, Quiz Show, Ed Wood, Gettysburg and BARTON FINK
*Read this review only if you've seen Barton Fink and want to read analysis, not if your thinking of seeing the movie.
First of all, Barton Fink is some serious brain candy. There are so many issues and so many symbols in this movie that are great to discuss. To name a few big ones, think companionship, jealousy, damnation, fascism, racism, vigilantism, interventionism, pretentiousness, creativity, the right to be a jerk, corporate power and dumb Hollywood style all rolled into a movie that IS writer's block. Like the other Coen brother's movies, there is an absolutely unique feel to the movie, created mostly by fabulous imagery and a handful of great characters. The acting is about the best I've ever seen in a movie. The cast has a lot of 'hey I've seen that guy' guys who are all awesome. They include:
John Turturro - Is there a better actor in the business? No. The Coen brothers and Spike Lee seem to know this, when will the Academy? Turturro carries the movie as Barton Fink, there's amazing depth to his expressions. I love his trance, sort of a "what the hell happened" expression during the scenes on the beach and beside the pool... does the serenity of water signify something about that... maybe a serenity he desires yet would kill his writing? Who knows, there's A LOT to think about in this movie.
Michael Lerner - This guy was fabulous as Lipnick, the studio boss. While his long, loud, chatty lines, are extremely funny but not particularly original, his praise of Barton is genius, hitting a ridiculous high that is absolutely hysterical. Like the other characters, listen carefully to his lines, (if you're not laughing too hard), the second time you see the movie you'll undoubtedly notice something very funny about the line, "Never heard of it. Let's move him to the Grand, or the Wilshire, or hell, he can stay at my place."
Tony Shaloub - He's a great actor and he shows it here. He's a stressed out producer who seems to be the last one to know what movies he's producing. He has a couple great lines.
John Mahoney - He was great in Eight Men Out and Frasier, and he's good in this movie too as a drunk southern writer (Faulkner?) who is somewhat belligerent but at the same time very lofty and whimsical, explaining that he writes simply because he loves to create, the antithesis of Barton's belief that a writer must have pain. It's classic how Barton very quickly turns from admiring him so much to thinking he's a son of a bitch.
Steve Buscemi - He is the perfect cast as Chet (Charon?) the friendly but very eerie hotel clerk. The hotel is already quite bizarre with its odd wallpaper and long empty hallways and Buscemi is the perfect complement to it.
John Goodman - He truly elevates this movie to greatness. His performance was perfect. He captures the essence of the everyman with astounding detail. In his handful of simple scenes with Turturro he is so convincing and genuine that his truth is hard to stomach, could the everyday man slip into evil so easily (Nazism?) and still be such a nice guy? The transition from the very authentic real life feel of the movie to the ridiculous and allegorical conclusion follows Goodman, and he absolutely makes it happen. The transition is jarring at first, but when you think back on it, it makes perfect sense and there are many clues that lead up to it. It is a fantastic finale to an all-time great movie.