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Barton Fink (1991)

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A renowned New York playwright is enticed to California to write for the movies and discovers the hellish truth of Hollywood.


, (uncredited)


2,970 ( 34)
Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 13 wins & 13 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
David Warrilow ...
Garland Stanford
I.M. Hobson ...
Poppy Carnahan (as Megan Faye)
Richard St. Claire


In 1941, New York intellectual playwright Barton Fink comes to Hollywood to write a Wallace Beery wrestling picture. Staying in the eerie Hotel Earle, Barton develops severe writer's block. His neighbor, jovial insurance salesman Charlie Meadows, tries to help, but Barton continues to struggle as a bizarre sequence of events distracts him even further from his task. Written by Scott Renshaw <as.idc@forsythe.stanford.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Between Heaven and Hell There's Always Hollywood! See more »


Comedy | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language and some scenes of violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

21 August 1991 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Barton Fink - Delírios de Hollywood  »

Box Office


$9,000,000 (estimated)


$6,153,939 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


In his play, "Bare Ruined Choirs", Barton's characters are named Lil, Maury, and Dave. According to the original script, these are also the names of his parents and uncle, although in the film, his father's name is Sam. See more »


Colonel Lipnick's uniform contains awards created after 1941, including a Master Parachutist Badge (1949) and the Combat Infantryman's Badge (1943). See more »


Barton: I don't like to discuss Works in Progress. If I let the words tumble out prematurely, it changes it, and I may never get it back.
See more »


Referenced in Swimming Pool (2003) See more »


by Irving Mills and Fletcher Henderson
Published by Mills Music, Inc.
Courtesy of EMI Music Publishing
See more »

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User Reviews

the Coen's most ambiguous work; the older cousin to Lynch's Mulholland Drive
17 December 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Barton Fink, much like a Lynch film as mentioned, or something along the lines of a totally surrealist work, plays on the themes like music, and offers up some waiting, strange images, even stranger, brand-name Coen-brothers characters, and a climax that plays into what the film is about so much it almost nails it hard on the head. At the same time, it's a dark comedy about the B-Hollywood picture world, and writing in general. Half of the movie, like 'Drive', is more straightforward, and then it goes right into the depths of a nightmarish mind-molder. A lot of times it's less funny than it is more tragic-comic, with it's hero occasionally meeting a character that provides laughs, big ones, and then quiet, brooding sensations. And that wallpaper that just wont stick. Starring is John Turturro, winning a Cannes acting award for his truly uncomfortable, often burnt and often perpetually uncertain but life-filled title character, is blocked.

Who could blame him when forced by contract into a wrestling picture for an old-time studio head (Michael Lerner, who has show-stealer scenes), getting no advice from his once-idol-now-drunkard writer Mayhew, and only company being a surly, un-commonly genteel fellow from next door named Charlie (John Goodman), and the writer's 'secretary'? As Fink tries to find what the 'essence' of what he needs to write for this formulaic picture, Charlie keeps stopping by, things keeps revolving around him in the frustrated Hollywood scheme, and he goes in over his head. But what makes him go over his head? The Coen's solve this possible problem in terms of their surreal-like, trick-playing and mood heavy technique by making the hotel Fink is staying at have its own sort of character, the walls and the images (i.e. the painting, typewriter, ceiling) all apart of what's closing in on him. Roger Deakins, first-time DP with the brothers, gets long, cavernous hallway shots. And then there's Turturro himself, quite the eccentric here and there, but really is the most sane guy when given the other characters.

There's such eccentricity here, and so many potentials for deranged humor and even beautiful shots of this sort of 'hell', that you almost can't hope but think something has to come out of this. What climaxes is indeed one of the Coen's very best. I've seen Barton Fink twice now, and I've almost had the same reaction to it both times, with a greater appreciation for all of the dream-like qualities of the film this time (and also having gone through more of the Lynch and Bunuel and films like that). But you do have to 'give' yourself to the film (hate to use that term, but it's true for here). I could see someone getting bored with this movie- certainly not I, though then again it's such a particular thing (unless dealing with Fargo or O Brother Where Art Thou) to recommend a Coen brothers movie to the masses. Especially this time around, when the duo were working their way through a block on a much more 'mainstream' movie for them (Miller's Crossing), that some of the symbolism, if it even is sometimes, will go over people's heads. Indeed, here and there I could sense a possibility for pretentious moments to slip through.

They didn't for me, and that was thanks to the main three things the film won for at Cannes- the calm, seething direction, the inhibited, magnetically odd acting from Tuturro, and the production values all combined. When it comes time to read off the names of the best surrealist works of the last twenty years of the 20th century, this deserves a place among some of the more well-know Lynch and Cronenberg films.

14 of 23 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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