Barton Fink, the Coen Brothers' fourth film, won the Best Director and Golden Palm awards at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival, as well as the Best Actor award for John Turturro. With an engaging script, great character performances by, among others, Turturro and Goodman, Barton Fink is funny and gripping in equal measure. Ethan Coen mused in an interview that this was "a buddy movie for the 1990s" [see [...] but, like other films made by the Coen Brothers, Barton Fink cannot be neatly categorised and is a film of stark contrasts. Violent, yet humorous, this is a psycho-drama with a host of amusing and intriguing characters.
Barton Fink (Turturro) is a serious and critically-acclaimed playwright in 1940s New York. Having come to the attention of a Hollywood movie mogul, he is lured to Los Angeles to write for the movies. Finding himself contracted to write a "wrestling" film, Fink is tormented by writer's block and seeks help from another writer's secretary (Judy Davis). Lodged in the eerie Hotel Earle, with its dim lighting, peeling wallpaper and eccentric plumbing system, Fink also encounters his neighbour, insurance-seller Charlie Meadows (Goodman). Despite passionately espousing the virtues of theatre for and about "the common man", Fink's lack of interest in his neighbour's own stories about working life has disturbing consequences. It is the heightened drama in Fink's own life that finally gives him the impetus he needs to write again.
It is the Coen Brothers' characteristic wry, ironic sense of humour and quirky style, together with Turturro's intense brooding performance as Fink often captured in long takes and periods of silence, which makes watching this film a thoroughly enjoyable experience.