In this unsettling period comedy, it’s 1941, and Fink (John Turturro) is a Broadway playwright with Clifford Odets’ leftie resume and George S. Kaufman’s corona of frizzy hair. But whereas they both had famous affairs with movie actresses, Fink sits monastically in a Hollywood hotel room trying to spice up a wrestling-movie script with what the bombastic studio boss flatteringly calls “that Barton Fink feeling.” (Later, the mogul rips into him, shouting, “I got 20 writers under contract I can ask for a Fink-type thing from!”)
Barton’s neighbor in the hotel is played by large John Goodman, whom the Coens often call on to embody volcanic rage. He brings the fire this time, an inferno accompanied by rifle blasts (100-minute mark). Coen films have often referenced the Stanley Kubrick oeuvre; Barton Fink is an inside-Hollywood movie reimagined as The Shining. Except that, this time, the would-be writer’s demons are alive, congenial and utterly psycho.
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