Barton Fink

Bomb Rating: 

One cannot help but wonder whether this movie was Joel and Ethan Coen's idea of a practical joke. "Hey, since all these stupid film reviewers are criticizing us for making movies about other movies, let's make a self-indulgent art film about a struggling writer in Hollywood whose creative spirit is corrupted by commercialism. All the film critics will love it because all of them imagine themselves to be struggling writers who were forced into journalism against their will because the Hollywood man keeps them down."

The story is loosely based on the life of '40s playwright Clifford Odets. Barton Fink (John Turturro) goes to Hollywood after his first successful play and is asked to write, of all things, a Wallace Beery wrestling movie. As the creative juices turn to cement, his life takes on the surreal quality of all writers who get blocked. As one who has faced similar struggles, I certainly remember the time my favorite writer's (John Mahoney) girlfriend (Judy Davis) ended up in a pool of blood next to me. Then there was the time the walls oozed snot. Ah, those were the days.

If you don't accept the surface explanation of "Barton Fink" being a symbolic expression of writer repression, you may want to consider the theory of a friend of mine who surmised that the whole film was an attack on American Jews and their failure to help their European counterparts during the holocaust. Another friend hypothesized that the movie was really about small men from Venus who had penises for arms and were hell-bent on taking over the galaxy. This forced us to conclude that "Barton Fink" was both confusing and dangerous.

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