BEAUTY: ” I said it’s a beautiful day…” BARTON: “Yes… It is…” BEAUTY: “What’s in the box?” Barton shrugs and shakes his head. BARTON: “I don’t know.” BEAUTY: “Isn’t it yours?” BARTON: “I… I don’t know…”
The Coen Brothers latest movie True Grit opens today so today’s 12 Days of Christmas is 1991’s Barton Fink. I didn’t like Barton Fink the first time I saw it. Perhaps like is the wrong word – understand might be a better word. It took several viewings before I grew to enjoy the film. I still don’t know if I understand it completely.
The film is set in the 1940’s. John Turturro is Barton Fink – a playwright who has just been hired by a Hollywood studio to write for the motion pictures. His first assignment is to write a Wallace Beery wrestling picture. Fink quickly gets writer’s block and is unable to come up with anything to write about.
Everything starts distracting him – the heat, the mosquitoes and his noisy neighbour – making him unable to write. He complains to the front desk about his neighbour in the dumpy hotel that he’s staying. His neighbour turns out to be John Goodman. Goodman claims to be a traveling salesman and befriends Fink – even giving him a package to look after.
Fink goes to talk to another writer for help and ends up asking the man’s secretary (Judy Davis) for help. She comes over to his hotel room and sleeps with him. When Fink wakes up – his life takes a turn for the worse.
There is something extremely entertaining about this movie. From the wisecracking cops looking for serial killer Madman Mundt to the self important movie mogul played by Michael Lerner, the movie is populated with memorable characters who seem to be in a different movie than Fink. Fink constantly looks lost and confused while he tries to figure out what he’s supposed to be writing about. And of course then there’s the contents of the box that is given to Fink. Is it a head? It sure seems like it.
CHARLIE: “By the way, that package I gave you? I lied. It isn’t mine.”