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Video Review: Barton Fink (1991)

August 22, 2011
  • Dir. Joel Coen
  • Released by 20th Century Fox
  • Written by Joel and Ethan Coen
  • Rating **
Original Laserdicks Review
 
 
The fourth film by the Coen Brothers almost works. No, seriously: it’s almost worthy of a recommendation. It certainly shows off their skill for narrative and visual storytelling, and the performances are consistently solid. So, why did it get the negative reviews from M.A. Moreno and Dustin Barnes?
 
Mr. Subtitle: Because you two idiots didn’t know what you were talking about, clearly. This is a four-star movie, without a doubt.
 
Ah, Mr. Subtitle, don’t you think that this film’s climax pushed the whole film to a level of silliness that is not supported by the tone of the rest of the film? I mean, this isn’t Raising Arizona. It has a sense of humor about it, but it’s far too straight for such an over-the-top climax.
 
Mr. Subtitle: First of all, the movie has a strong satirical current from beginning to end that allows it to flow between realism and surrealism whenever it wants. Second, the ending is not silly–it is chilling and twisted!
 
You mean it’s pretentious and hokey. And this nonsensical, pseudo-symbolic conclusion is really unfortunate, too, since this movie would almost be a four-star review for me otherwise. John Turturro (sporting the Harold Ramis look, I must say) is entertaining as the titular playwright who becomes the victim of Hollywood flakiness, John Goodman is indeed creepy until the groan-worthy ending, and John Mahoney (Frasier fans rejoice!) steals the show as William-Faulkner-in-all-but-name.
 
Mr. Subtitle: And you haven’t even mentioned the memorable performances of Michael Lerner, Jon Polito, Tony Shalhoub, and Steve Buscemi!
 
Yes, yes, they’re all good. And much of the film is quite entertaining, even if it drags in spots…
 
Mr. Subtitle: I didn’t think that at all. Was Miller’s Crossing too slow for you, too? Or True Grit? Or The Big Lebowski? Or Fargo? Or No Coun
 
Let me ask you this: do you prefer Barton Fink over any of the movies you just listed?
 
Mr. Subtitle: Well, no, but that’s beside–
 
Discussion over. With so many solid films from this duo, why stick with one that falls short when you can pick a stronger entry? I suppose that if you’re hooked on the Brothers, you should check this out as a completist. Also, if the premise of the plot appeals to you, you should find it okay, if not great. Otherwise, skip it!
 
Mr. Subtitle: Don’t listen to M.A. Moron here! It won the Palme d’Or! What more do you want?
 
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From → Film Criticism

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