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Barton Fink (1991)

tomatometer

91

Average Rating: 7.6/10
Reviews Counted: 54
Fresh: 49 | Rotten: 5

Twisty and unsettling, the Coen brothers' satirical tale of a 1940s playwright struggling with writer's block is packed with their trademark sense of humor and terrific performances from its cast.

92

Average Rating: 7.6/10
Critic Reviews: 13
Fresh: 12 | Rotten: 1

Twisty and unsettling, the Coen brothers' satirical tale of a 1940s playwright struggling with writer's block is packed with their trademark sense of humor and terrific performances from its cast.

audience

89

liked it
Average Rating: 3.9/5
User Ratings: 42,993

My Rating

Movie Info

The title character, played by John Turturro, is a Broadway playwright, based on Clifford Odets, lured to Hollywood with the promise of untold riches by a boorish studio chieftain (played by Michael Lerner as a combination of Louis B. Mayer and Harry Cohn). Despising the film capital and everything it stands for, Barton Fink comes down with an acute case of writer's block. He is looked after by a secretary (Judy Davis) who has been acting as a ghost writer for an alcoholic screenwriter (John

R,

Drama, Comedy

,

Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

May 20, 2003

20th Century Fox

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All Critics (54) | Top Critics (13) | Fresh (49) | Rotten (5) | DVD (15)

It's at its best when young Barton Fink simply stares at a picture of a bathing beauty contemplating the ocean -- a Hollywood dream.

January 16, 2013 Full Review Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Gnomic, claustrophobic, hallucinatory, just plain weird, it is the kind of movie critics can soak up thousands of words analyzing and cinephiles can soak up at least three espressos arguing their way through.

October 13, 2009 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Again the Coens take familiar movie tropes and twist them into something new. This may be their most haunting movie.

October 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Newsweek
Newsweek
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Scene after scene is filled with a ferocious strength and humor.

November 6, 2007 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This creepy satire is full of laughs and flaky twists, but by the end you may still be scratching your head.

November 6, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader | Comments (9)
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Somehow everything coheres, thanks to the Coens' superb writing and assured direction, and a roster of marvellous performances. The result works on numerous levels, thrilling the mind, ears and eyes, and racking the nerves.

January 26, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Goes off the deep end.

April 4, 2011 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Bizarre Hollywood dream factory. Teens only.

January 2, 2011 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

Resembles not the artist's churning mind but the filmmakers' conjoined colon

November 15, 2009 Full Review Source: CinePassion | Comments (12)
CinePassion

Does cinema get any better than this?

April 19, 2008
Moviehole

The film's period decor, mood lighting and artful camerawork are beautiful, at times thrilling, to look at.

November 6, 2007 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Fascinating tale by the Coen brothers, among their best, with standout work by leads Turturro and Goodman.

November 4, 2007
Video-Reviewmaster.com

Someone pleaaaaase explain this movie to me!

August 25, 2006 Full Review Source: JoBlo's Movie Emporium | Comments (8)
JoBlo's Movie Emporium

The worst of the Coens' genre-ransacking; mean and self-congratulatory.

February 9, 2006 Full Review Source: F5 (Wichita, KS) | Comments (9)

Written during their own creative block, Joel and Ethan Coen's noirish satirical allegory decodes the myth of the "sensitive" artist, the mysteries of the creative process, and the ambiguities of Hollywood authorship.

July 3, 2005 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com | Comment (1)
EmanuelLevy.Com

... a courageous and horrific glimpse through the ego and courage of the human spirit into the emptiness of even the kindest human being's heart.

January 15, 2005 Full Review Source: Looking Closer | Comment (1)
Looking Closer

Another great turn by the Coen brothers, with regulars Turturro and Goodman at their best.

November 11, 2004
Nolan's Pop Culture Review

A look at old Hollywood that's not just weird, but truly unsettling.

October 7, 2004
Capital Times (Madison, WI)

The Coens' unsettling evocation of isolation and madness is vividly realized; their ultimate meaning is insanely obscure.

April 1, 2004 Full Review Source: Boulder Weekly

Nothing turns out as it seems, and the surreal finale to the film elevate the movie to being one of the Coens' best.

January 27, 2004 Full Review Source: Filmcritic.com
Filmcritic.com

Audience Reviews for Barton Fink

An always smart and intriguing film that combines acid criticism (especially of Hollywood) and a surreal feel of nightmare the way the Coen brothers do best, with a cynical, sophisticated sense of humor, priceless dialogue and a delicious gallery of fascinating characters.
December 11, 2013
blacksheepboy

Super Reviewer

Barton Fink is a great film directed by the Coen Brothers, and it tells a really compelling story based on a smartly, well written screenplay that only the Coen Brothers could write. Each of their films are unique in their own way and this is very much the case with this impressive movie. A talented Playwright goes to Hollywood to start work on his first screenplay, and he discovers that Hollywood is much harder than what he thought it was going to be. The portrayal of Barton Fink is immaculate in the hands of actor John Torturro, who has done some impressive work with the Coens since. With this film, he really displays the talent that he uses to great advantage, and you are simply captivated by his performance. This is a superb drama film that is among their best piece of work. With a brilliant cast at their disposal, and a well written script, Barton Fink is a must watch for viewers that enjoy a compelling dramatic work. Barton Fink isn't a perfect film, but nonetheless it is a fine example of why the Coen Brothers are terrific filmmakers who can tell an engaging story. Barton Fink is a well crafted picture that showcases great talent on-screen and it is a film that stands out among the Coen Brothers strongest efforts. That is a strong statement, because each of their efforts are well executed, well thought out storylines and effective performances that really make their work stand out among other directors. I really enjoyed the film, and thought that the cast and story were quite wonderful, and it could have been better in some areas, but overall this is yet another solid piece of cinema from two directors who know how to spin a terrific yarn.
August 3, 2013
TheDudeLebowski65
Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski

Super Reviewer

It doesn't take long to realize that Barton Fink is something special. Its a very frustrating film, intentionally genius and pointless at the same time, all part of what may amount to a huge practical joke the Coen's pulled on Hollywood. Regardless of what it all means (or if it means anything at all), Barton Fink sucks you in and keeps you firmly invested, thanks in large part to the phenomenal cast, hilarious writing, and a refusal to be classified into any genre.
November 2, 2012
Sam Barnett

Super Reviewer

"I've always found that writing comes from a great inner pain."

Set in 1941, a newly successful New York playwright accepts an offer to write movie scripts in LA, and finds himself with writer's block when required to do a B-movie wrestling script, the only relief coming from a traveling salesman living next door.

REVIEW
The most original effort yet (at the time of its release) from erstwhile genre robbers Joel and Ethan Coen is a striking parody of the creative process, and one of the few films to successfully probe the mind of a writer...ironically, by showing him not writing. The title character is an idealistic New York playwright summoned to Hollywood in the 1930s and suffering writer's block after being commissioned to script a Wallace Beery wrestling picture. He's an artist out of touch with reality trapped in a city out of touch with reality, and his massive creative block (plus his subsequent anxiety) is aggravated by the stifling environment and unrealistic expectations: how can he write anything when the producer of Capitol Pictures (scene stealer Michael Lerner) is, literally, kissing his feet?

The big tease about 'the box' and its contents is little more than just that, and the bloody death of Judy Davis doesn't present the shock of truth it's meant to have: for several scenes afterward it could almost be another of Fink's paranoid delusions. But unlike the merely visual wallpaper of their earlier movies, the Coen's patented mock portentous attitude and tongue-in-cheek claustrophobia is at least made to serve a purpose, becoming the perfect manifestation of (in Capitol Pictures mogul Jack Lipnick's phrase) "that Barton Fink feeling."
August 22, 2012
LorenzoVonMatterhorn
Lorenzo von Matterhorn

Super Reviewer

    1. Jack Lipnick: We don`t put Wallace Beery in some fruity movie about suffering. I thought we were together on that.
    – Submitted by steve l (13 months ago)
    1. Chet: Everything seems to be in order, everything seems to be in order.
    – Submitted by John F (15 months ago)
    1. Barton Fink: You read the bible Pete?
    2. Pete: Holy Bible?
    – Submitted by John F (15 months ago)
    1. Barton Fink: I gotta tell ya, the life of the mind, there's no road map for that kinda territory, and exploring it can be painful.
    – Submitted by John F (15 months ago)
    1. Barton Fink: You're very beautiful, are you in pictures?
    2. Beauty: Don't be silly.
    – Submitted by Pete H (23 months ago)
    1. Ben Geisler: Wallace Beery, wrestling picture, whata ya need a road map?
    – Submitted by Pete H (23 months ago)
View all quotes (9)

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