Barton Fink

Joel and Ethan Coen (Fargo) go to 1941 Hollywood in an oddball 1991 horror comedy about a blocked New York playwright (John Turturro) with a studio contract and the apparently normal insurance salesman (John Goodman) who lives next door. This creepy satire is full of laughs and flaky twists, but by the end you may still be scratching your head. As usual the Coen brothers brandish their adolescent smarminess and comic-book cynicismin this case trumpeting their apparent superiority to Clifford Odets (Turturro), William Faulkner (John Mahoney), and Jewish studio heads (Michael Lerner) while showing a middling ability to ape the moods and stylistic mannerisms of Roman Polanski, Stanley Kubrick, and David Lynch. Very competently mounted and acted (there are also juicy parts for Judy Davis, Tony Shalhoub, and Jon Polito), this is basically a midnight-movie gross-out in Sunday-afternoon art-house clothing. R, 117 min. (JR)

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