A writer going crazy, or is it? What’s in the box, what’s in the box? What’s in the box, is it the same thing as Se7en? ‘Cause I think it is…
War rages in Europe (WW2, the big one), but in NYC high-brow theatre about the common fishmonger goes on as usual. Barton Fink just got a laudatory review in the New York Herald (now New York Times), and he gets a contract to write for the pictures, in LA. Big money, could finance plenty of future high-brow plays.
Begrudgingly, he accepts and moves into a complete dump of an hotel, somewhere “less Hollywood”, to keep attuned with the common man. The studio head spews torrents of words at him (can hardly be called a conversation), and he is given the task of writing a wrestling film. Ya’ know, big men in tights, lots of action, a B movie.
Our writer comes from a school that eschews the grandiose stories of kings and queens, writers should focus on the common people, everybody has stories to tell and they are all valid. When the common insurance seller next door is making too much noise and they have to meet, that’s exactly what he tells him: your stories are valid. When the salesman tries to tell him some of those stories, Barton cuts him off to insist on the point that his stories are the most important, and they should be heard and celebrated. Barton interrupts him several times to tell him how his stories are important.
Fink barely stepped on a cinema, so he’s out of his depth. Asking around, he’s ordered to talk to another writer, which he does. Some bigshot intellectual he admires, a guy he meets in a bathroom, while he pukes explosively.
Barton admires even more his secretary/mistress, and finds it ridiculous how she tolerates a drunken bastard like him. Even worse, she wrote his last two books for him, the phoney hack! The gall of taking the credit, how the mighty have fallen.
His Audrey admiration grows even more when she helps him “unclog his blockage” (in both senses), after escaping one of his drunken stupors.
Waking up in the morning, he finds her sleeping next to him. Maybe too still, and with a strange liquid soaking up the bed. DEAD? Whaaaaaaaa! Fink is alone in LA, he goes to the only guy he knows, and that’s the neighbour. He takes it pretty much in stride, and takes care of that, somehow.
After that, some detectives start asking questions, transpiring that his buddy might in fact be a cold blooded killer. This seems to unclog his blockage, because he writes the whole script right then. After a shootout on the hotel (which is actually on fire), the cops are gone, and his buddy gives him a box for him to keep.
Submitting the script, he is eviscerated by the same guy that literally kissed his feet some weeks before. They will dump it, and he will write more, better plays, now that the war started.
Finally, Barton goes to the beach with the box, and finds a girl there which resembles exactly the poster that was on his room, making the audience think all this was just the plot he was writing about.