Barton Fink (1991)



Critic Consensus: 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.

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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 Mahoney, playing a character based on William Faulkner). Also keeping tabs on Fink is a garrulous traveling salesman (John Goodman), the most likeable, stable character in the picture. And then comes the plot twist to end all plot twists, plunging Barton Fink into a surreal nightmare that would make Hieronymus Bosch look like a house painter. Once more, Ethan and Joel Coen serve up a smorgasbord of quirkiness and kinkiness, where nothing is what it seems and nothing turns out as planned. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
R (for language and some scenes of violence.)
Comedy , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
20th Century Fox

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John Turturro
as Barton Fink
John Goodman
as Charlie Meadows
Judy Davis
as Audrey
Michael Lerner
as Lipnick
John Mahoney
as Mayhew
Tony Shalhoub
as Geisler
David Warrilow
as Garland Stanford
Richard Portnow
as Detective Mastrionotti
Christopher Murney
as Detective Deutsch
I.M. Hobson
as Derek
Megan Faye
as Poppy Carnahan
Lance Davis
as Richard St. Claire
Jack Denbo
as Stagehand
Max Grodénchik
as Clapper Boy
Robert Beecher
as Referee
Darwyn Swalve
as Wrestler
Gayle Vance
as Geisler's Secretary
Jana Marie Hupp
as USO Girl
Frances McDormand
as Voice of Stage Actress
Barry Sonnenfeld
as Page Calling for Barton Fink
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Critic Reviews for Barton Fink

All Critics (54) | Top Critics (13)

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

Full Review… | January 16, 2013
Chicago Tribune
Top 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.

Full Review… | October 13, 2009
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

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

Full Review… | October 17, 2008
Top Critic

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

Full Review… | November 6, 2007
Top Critic

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

Full Review… | November 6, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top 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.

Full Review… | January 25, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Barton Fink


Good performances pepper this work about ... well, what is it about? The naivete of youthful idealism? The plasticity of Hollywood maybe? Or maybe the latent savagery of the world at large? Any who, it's all thrown into the pot here and stirred to a frothy burn. The Coens seem to have mastered the fine old world skill of speaking at length very intelligently while never in fact saying a blessed thing. Never uninteresting and fascinating to observe. .. for a bit.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer



Directors Cat
Directors Cat

Super Reviewer


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.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

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