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Film: Barton Fink

A 1991 film by The Coen Brothers, often considered one of their best. Barton Fink (John Turturro) is a playwright who has gotten a contract to write movies. The enthusiastic studio executive tells him to write a wrestling picture.

Getting a bad case of Writer's Block, he meets Charlie Meadows, an insurance salesman, "W. P. Mayhew" (William Faulkner), his mistress, an excitable producer, and a cast of others.

Notable for earning three awards at Cannes, it contains elements from numerous genres, being somewhat of a comedy-Film Noir-mystery-horror-drama.

Barton Fink provides examples of:

  • Alas, Poor Yorick: A possible case, depending on the contents of the box.
  • Affably Evil: Charlie Meadows.
  • Axe Crazy: Charlie Meadows, a.k.a. "Madman" Mundt. Played by John Goodman.
  • Captain Obvious: Charlie comments several times on how hot it is inside a building that's on fire.
  • Death by Sex: Audrey, and instantly.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The detectives make it plain that they don't like Barton for being Jewish.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The film is set in 1941. For no particular reason, the anti-Semitic detectives are given a German and an Italian name (Deutsch and Mastrionotti) to evoke the Axis powers, and Charlie/Mundt (who also has a German name) says "Heil Hitler" before killing one of them. However, Word Of God says this is really just symbolism for symbolism's (scary) sake, not necessarily with a real message attached.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: W.P. Mayhew sings: "Gone are the days when my heart was young and gay..."
  • Hell Hotel: The Hotel Earle is rather unsettling to begin with. Then it bursts into flames.
    • Goodman's line went something like:
    You think you're in hell, I live here.
  • Hollyweird: The disturbing surrealism starts once Barton leaves New York.
  • Hypocrite: Barton makes a big deal about how his work deals with the plights of the common man, yet when Charlie tries talking to him about his own experiences as a common man, Barton insists on talking over him about his own work.
  • Large Ham: As noted, the producer and executive have the times of their lives with their roles.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: The main menu of the DVD spoils almost everything about the ending.
  • Madness Mantra
    Charlie/Mundt: I'LL SHOW YOU THE LIFE OF THE MIND!
  • Magnum Opus: invokedFink thinks he's written his at the end of the story. But since he was supposed to be writing a Strictly Formula wrestling flick, all he achieves is getting his supervisor fired and himself locked into a contract he's promised will never produce anything he writes.
  • Mind Screw: The contents of the box.
  • Money, Dear Boy: invokedIn-Universe, how Fink is convinced to go to Hollywood to write B-movie scripts.
  • The Murder After: Audrey's death.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: The dreaded "Writer With Writer's Block" plot.
  • N-Word Privileges: Jewish studio head Jack Lipnick calls himself and others kikes.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: W. P. Mayhew, based on William Faulkner. Also Barton himself, who's sort of a Writers Suck version of Clifford Odets.
  • No Ending
  • Plot Hole: Possibly intentional, but the morning after Meadows leaves the hotel, his shoes are out in the hall for shining.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "I WILL SHOW YOU THE LIFE OF THE MIND!"
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech
  • The Reveal: The scene when the detectives meet Barton.
  • Same Story, Different Names: in-universe example of Barton Fink's play vs. screenplay:
    Bare Ruined Choirs ends with "We'll be hearing from that kid, and I don't mean a postcard"
    The Burlyman ends with "We'll be hearing from that crazy wrestler, and I don't mean a postcard."
  • Shaggy Dog Story
  • Suspect Is Hatless: Barton can't really say much about the man the detectives are looking for:
    Barton Fink: He... he said he liked Jack Oakie pictures.
    beat
    Detective Mastrionotti: You know, ordinarily we say anything you might remember could be helpful. But I'll be frank with you, Fink. That is not helpful.
    Detective Deutsch: Notice he's not writing it down.
  • Those Two Guys: Deutsch and Mastrionotti
  • Throw It In: The bird diving into the ocean at the end wasn't planned.
  • Trauma Conga Line: First, Barton gets a little writer's block. Then he discovers that his idol is a drunken, empty shell of a man. Then he wakes up with their mutual muse lying dead beside him in bed. Then he discovers that his only friend is a homicidal maniac. Then the homicidal maniac returns and kills his fallen idol and the entire building catches fire and it is also implied his folks were murdered due to Barton telling Mundt to stay with them, at which point he loses his job. One hell of a route from A to B, there.
    • He doesn't lose his job he is still under contract. The studio owns everything he will ever make, but they will never produce them.
  • The Unreveal: The contents of the box.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Subverted; after seeing Audrey's body, Charlie goes to the bathroom to throw up.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Barton and his belief in the common man.
  • Writer's Block: The movie is about a writer suffering from writer's block, written while the Coens themselves were having difficulty with Miller's Crossing.
  • Writer's Block Montage: Of course.
  • Writers Suck: Ben Geisler certainly thinks so. Fink himself is a self-pitying, pompous hypocrite.


AvatarCreator/ 20 th Century FoxBatman: The Movie

alternative title(s): Barton Fink
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