In 1941, nerdy, whiz-kid Manhattan playwright Barton Fink (John Turturro) heads for LA to write a big-time movie, or so he thinks. Instead, he gets a wrestling script. His neurotic Manhattan verve undercut by LA madness, he’s exposed to a parade of caricature eccentrics and finds a friend in salesman Charlie Meadows (John Goodman). The Coen brothers weld Nathaniel West’s moody, claustrophobic Hollywood with Fellini faces. And Barton’s the worse for it. He and his woogly glasses get writer’s block. Humidity provokes hallucinations (behold melting wallpaper). Even Art Deco goes Gothic. And Charlie turns out to be a serial killer.
As always, the Joel and Ethan Coen churn out this pseudo-comic dread with a smile. Turturro and Goodman (who perspires worth 10 summers) are a fine match. “Fink” is old Hollywood Coenized.