Thursday Screener

Barton Fink, The Talented Mr Ripley and Wildlife
Film+TV | 14 October 2021
Above:

Barton Fink by the Coen brothers, 1991

This article is part of HERO Dailies – Essential culture, curated daily and also part of Thursday Screener

HERO DAILIES: Essential culture, curated daily
THURSDAY SCREENER: Three films that should be in your watchlist

Barton Fink by the Coen brothers, 1991

The Coen brothers’ 1991 work Barton Fink is up there with the filmmaking duo’s best. John Turturro (yes, Jesus from The Big Lebowski) is superbly cast as the titular character, a highly successful New York playwright who takes up an offer to write for the movies in LA. While there, he’s put up in a very strange hotel, where Steve Buscemi is a peculiar bellhop and John Goodman is Barton’s everyman hotel neighbour.

Written as a break from Miller’s Crossing, the Coen brothers found inspiration in a different avenue, penning Barton Fink in just three weeks. This theme of writer’s block and artistic flow filters through Barton’s character, and as he struggles to put words on paper, events around him start to get real weird. Typically dark, the Coen brothers have previously called Barton Fink their ode to Roman Polanski’s The Tenant, and you can see why: the twisting pace, subtle paranoia, creepy building and our protagonist at the centre trying to figure out what the fuck is going on.

Stream Barton Fink on Amazon Prime. 

Barton Fink by the Coen brothers, 1991

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Anthony Minghella, 1999

Based on Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 novel of the same name, this classic psychological thriller directed by Anthony Minghella stars Matt Damon and Jude Law in their prime. Living lavishly off the idyllic Italian coast in the 1950s as a young heir is the dream of many, so when underachieving sociopath Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) manages to convince the millionaire father of Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law) he can lure his partying son back to the straight-laced life he has planned for him, Greenleaf jumps at the chance.

But having infiltrated Dickie’s friendship circle, the novelty of Tom’s arrival soon wears off and the cultured group tire of the outsider – yet remain largely unaware of the extremities of his character; but being caught dancing in the mirror wearing Greenleaf’s clothes does rouse some suspicion of his true intentions. After sampling a taste of Dickie’s world, Tom will stop at nothing to hold onto it. Obsession slowly plagues their relationship as deception, impersonation, and forgery become the most powerful tools in Tom’s arsenal – proving a fatal opponent for all those around him. Caveat: this film will make you want to fill your wardrobe with Italian knit polos and buy a Vespa.

The Talented Mr. Ripley is streaming on Netflix

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Anthony Minghella, 1999

Wildlife by Paul Dano, 2018

Paul Dano’s directorial debut Wildlife (written together with his wife, Zoe Kazan) is a beautifully told story of a deteriorating marriage between emasculated former golf-pro Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal) and housewife Jeanette (Carey Mulligan), as seen through the eyes of their fourteen-year-old son, Joe (Ed Oxenbould). While his parents’ relationship becomes increasingly irreconcilable, Joe discovers them as ordinary human beings, fallible and unsure of themselves. As he desperately tries to maintain the walls of his universe, fighting to preserve all that he has ever known, the lives of his parents swirl uncontrollably around him.

All three actors give exceptionally convincing performances in high-octane domestic turmoil, with Carey Mulligan excelling as the conflicted mother of a single child (Drive, anyone?) in a role that was seemingly made for her.

Wildlife is streaming on Amazon Prime.

Wildlife by Paul Dano, 2018



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