Barfly is a lowlife fairytale, an ethereal seriocomedy about gutter existence from the pen of one who’s been there, Charles Bukowski. First American fictional feature from Swiss-French director Barbet Schroeder is spiked with unexpected doses of humor, much of it due to Mickey Rourke’ quirky, unpredictable, most engaging performance as the boozy hero.
Much as in a Bukowski short story, a bar is the center of the universe here. Populating the dive in a seedy section of Los Angeles are a floating assortment of winos and derelicts, of which one of the youngest and most volatile is Henry (Rourke), a self-styled poet of the bottle.
He meets a terribly attractive fellow alcoholic, Wanda (Faye Dunaway), who immediately takes him in and keeps him well plied with drink and sex, to the extent they are both interested in and capable of the latter.
Rourke’s performance is the centerpiece of the film, and keeps it buoyantly alive throughout. Dunaway also is on the right wavelength as the ‘distressed goddess’ who grows dependent upon and loyal to the wildly unreliable Rourke.