The Big Lebowski Reviews
The Big Lebowski is classic Coen Brothers. It isn't quite a masterpiece like Fargo or No Country for Old Men. but it is a worthy film to the hype that has surrounded it over the past decade.
There are similarities to "Blood Simple" in the storyline, but here the story is merely a jumping off point where the Bros. expand and amaze; riffing on everything from anger management, war (Vietnam in particular), and the rise of the entire slacker mentality, so wonderfully portrayed by Jeff Bridges as "the Dude".
From the beginning where you get a scripted voice over that sounds like a country version of a Chandler Noir book, as the visuals show a tumbleweed blown by the Santa Ana winds from the desert to the City of Angels, and then out to sea, all while the song Tumbling Tumbleweed plays in the background, you have all the roadmap you really need. The Dude embodies that tumbleweed, as does the script which reminds us that a simple act leads to other acts that snowball on top of one another creating a bizarre, hilarious, and yet believable mountain of incidents, where the only unbelievable parts are the characters of the bit players - from the Nihlist gang to Julianne Moore's hilarious portrayal as the Big Lebowski's daughter; all played for laughs.
But at the film's core you have Bridges and his bowling partner, a Vietnam vet with anger issues portrayed by John Goodman. The two are the solid core, and yet there are so many wonderful little pearls from the supporting cast - from the aforementioned role by Moore, to the fussy man servant portrayed by Phillip Seymore Hoffman, to an insane turn by John Turturro as the wacky bowling competitor Jesus (pronounced Jesus, not Heyzoos). Also in the mix is Steve Buschemi as the literal third wheel of the Dude's bowling team.
The film includes some bizarre and oft times hilarious bits of imagination that occur while the Dude is knocked unconscious (which happens frequently). Included in those bits of subconscious meanderings is a terrific bit where the Dude, who has just been drugged, imagines himself in the middle of a porno film that includes a dance number with Moore as a Valkarie with bowling balls as her breast plate - as the Kenny Rogers and the First Edition performance of "Seeing What Condition My Condition Was In" plays in the background. If the idea of a porno film couched around bowling seems odd to you - well of course it is - and yet it works wonderfully well; especially since the film expounds a kind of zen of bowling motif throughout.
And really, that last bit is all you really need to know about the film - offbeat, to be certain, and yet, at least for me, this all fit together into a wonderfully well thought out film where, unlike so many current films, the oddness has a meaning and a purpose - and isn't merely weird for weird's sake.
Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) is a cannabis smoking throwback from the seventies. He minds his own business, enjoying "bowling, driving around and the occasional acid flashback". One day, two thugs break into his home and urinate on his rug - "which really tied the room together". As he looks for answers, he finds that he has been mistaken for his namesake Jeffrey Lebowski, the Passadena millionaire (David Huddleston). Otherwise referred to as "The Big Lebowski. Looking for compensation for his rug, he pays the millionaire a visit and finds that his absent, trophy wife Bunny (Tara Reid) owes money all over town - including known pornographer Jackie Treehorn (Ben Gazarra), who sent the thugs (to the wrong house) to collect on the debt. But the thugs aren't the only ones who have gotten their Lebowski's mixed up. A trio of Nihilists threaten "The Dude" for a ransom of $1 million, claiming they will kill his wife. Reluctantly, "The Dude" gets involved, with his crazed Vietnam veteran buddy Walter (John Goodman), in trying to get the bottom of all the confusion. Does this make sense? Don't worry, "The Dude" doesn't get it either.
Trying to even give a synopsis of the plot in this complex tale, is hard enough, but that's to the Coens' credit in concocting this elaborate modern day private detective story. In the past, the Coens payed homage to crime writer Dashiell Hammett with "Miller's Crossing" and here, they pay homage to Hammett's contemporary Raymond Chandler. It has all the elements of a classic private-eye yarn but masquerades as a zany comedy. It's so much more than that. It's a film that relies heavily on consistently sharp dialogue and each word, pause and stammer are delivered perfectly by an exceptionally brilliant cast; Bridges is a very fine actor but this is his moment of glory, in a role that is perfectly suited. He has received numerous plaudits throughout his career - for his more serious roles - but this is his most iconic. Coens regular John Goodman is also at his maniacal best as his loyal buddy, Walter. Sam Elliott is wonderfully endearing, as "The Stranger", in cowboy attire, that's narrates the whole wacky tale and a scene-stealing John Turturro is simply unforgettable as Jesus Quintana, a latino, sex-offending bowler. In fact, it's very difficult to single out a specific performance, there are so many great appearances: from the likes of Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, David Thewlis, Ben Gazzara, Jon Polito and the always marvellous Philip Seymour Hoffman. The entire cast are just sublime and deliver their, razor sharp, dialogue under the most creative guidance from the Coens. It's not just the performances that stand out though; usual Coens cinematographer Roger Deakins works with a rich and colourful pallet and the choice of music throughout, accompanies the scenes perfectly.
I could go on and pick out every perfect detail of this classic but then I'd just be ruining it for you, even if you've already seen it. It'll do no harm to see it again - with a spliff and a beverage - and allow your "casualness to run deep".
I have tried to find the words that do this film justice but I still don't think I have. Rest assured though, this is the most enjoyable Coens movie to date and an instant cult classic that wll take one hell of a film to topple it from my #1 spot.