The Big Lebowski

**Note: This film contains coarse language and is permeated with violence and sensual content.** –I sense this is going to be a trend for this list…

And so, we return to reviewing the list of the 100 Modern Classic Films You Must See Before You Die.

First, I’ve seen this before, but I don’t remember a lot of the details, other than I liked it a lot! One of the things I’ve always thought is that it seems like a Joel and Ethan Coen film, just in the style and precision of the comedy (and everything else!). Well, I have news for you…that’s because it is! Well done, me!

This is a cult classic. I know some people who watch this film religiously, who have the collector’s bowling ball set, who have a few too many White Russians while watching it…There’s a Lebowski Fest, for crying out loud!

Here are my thoughts as I rewatch to refresh my memory…

I love the fact that there’s a tumbleweed going down the road, down a sidewalk, the upper deck of a hotel, and on the beach. It really sets the stage for the absurdity that follows.

Jeff Bridges, a.k.a. Jeff “The Dude” Lebowsi, the laziest man in Los Angeles (or maybe in all of the world?), who we meet buying the supplies for a relaxing evening is in a store in his bathrobe, and why not?

He walks into his house and two guys jump him, asking for money that his wife owes them. One (Mark Pellegrino) is big in current TV, playing Jacob on Lost, as well as Lucifer on Supernatural. So far, we don’t really know what’s going on. Do they have the wrong guy?

So, I’m on a bowling league every other Saturday. I’m not very good, but every time I go there I think of this movie. Every time.

Just after the random guys jump The Dude, we go to a bowling alley. The Dude, Donny (Steve Buscemi–who I always think of as “Crazy Eyes“), and Walter (John Goodman) are on a bowling team. They’re talking about the fact that one of the guys peed on The Dude’s rug, mistaking him for another Jeff Lebowski, who happens to be a millionaire. I love that he calls the urinator a Chinaman and Walter gets really irritated about the preferred, politically correct nomenclature. They say that The Dude should visit his wealthy doppelgänger to receive compensation for the rug that was destroyed–it really tied the whole room together.

When visiting the rich Lebowski, we meet a very young Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays his sniveling aide! Surprise!

Surprisingly, rich Lebowski refuses to pay for The Dude’s soiled rug. So, like the smooth, confident Dude that he is, he walks out with a great rug of Rich Lebowski.

One of the most absurd moments ever, that I somehow love, is when Walter pulls a gun when a guy on the other bowling team steps across the foul line. He really wants to uphold the rules of the league. He then upbraids The Dude for being mad at him for the slight zealousness in adhering to league policy, saying, “I’m calmer than you are…”

The Dude finally makes a deal with Rich Lebowski, after his wife is kidnapped, to identify the guys who assaulted him in the first place, because the same people did it.  He then goes home and is knocked out by Julianne Moore (Maude Lebowski, daughter of Rich Lebowski) and some thugs.

On the way to make the exchange with the kidnappers, Walter (who, let’s face it, has a screw loose) tries to trick the kidnappers with a fake briefcase of money. Not surprisingly, that doesn’t work very well. After the  kidnappers make off with his car in revenge for the attempted trick, The Dude visits Rich Lebowski’s daughter , who pays him to cover up for some of her father’s indiscretions by recovering the money he lost while trying to pull one over on the kidnappers.

More threatening occurrences threateningly occur, as more misunderstandings ensue. The Dude gets more twists in his knickers when visited by Rich Lebowski and Maude Lebowski, trying to manipulate events to get their way.

In quick succession, we meet two friendly faces: David Thewlis (Professor Lupin) and Ranjit (from How I Met Your Mother)

Two of my favorite moments in the movie follow:

Walter beating the heck out of a Corvette. He thinks it belongs to a kid who supposedly stole a million dollars that he and The Dude had stolen from Rich Lebowski. It doesn’t.

Just after this, The Dude is trying to stop people from breaking into his apartment by elaborately propping a chair up against his front door, when the interlopers just open the door outward. Just simple and stupid, but hilarious!

We now arrive at one of the moments I remember vividly from my first viewing: the dream sequence. It’s  a trippy sequence, complete with Saddam Hussein as a bowling shoe clerk, Julianne Moore in a viking outfit (with a bowling ball breastplate), and lots and lots of legs lining a bowling alley.

This is a pretty weird movie overall, so the odd, outrageous dream sequence actually fits.

Also, the funny thing that I’ve been thinking throughout this movie (and I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to think this, as the Coen Brothers are good at what they do), is that this seems like a parody of noir private eye films. The Dude keeps calling this “the case,” he drinks and smoke like a fish and chimney (respectively), there’s the web of lies and the alluring lady, and a millionaire who isn’t as he seems. Well, done, Coens.

I love that The Dude’s true nemesis is his bowling competition, Jesus (played to a disgusting excellence by John Turturro). He’s hilarious and in your face. He actually doesn’t have as big of a part as I remember, which should tell you the impact he had on me. I actually thought he was in it a LOT more.

Another hilarious moment in the movie is the fight between The Dude, Walter, and the nihilists. It’s a fight similar to the one in Pineapple Express–a hilarious movie. It’s a fight sequence in which they fight just like people would in real life. There’s a lot of flailing, throwing, and biting. More of the absurd. Just funny!

Just after the fight, Donny dies of a heart attack from the stress of it. Walter and The Dude transport his ashes in a Folger’s can, and when they scatter the ashes, the wind blows them all into The Dude’s face. The irreverent absurdity of it all, as well as the ending with the cowboy’s narration, just drives it home.

The entire situation is about The Dude going from a complete deadbeat to actually taking action in some form. We have no idea if it lasts, or even if he gets into the bowling tournament he’s been practicing for in the midst of all the beatings and abductions. But there’s hope!

Really, the victim in this movie is The Dude’s car. It just can’t catch a break!

Verdict: I’d say that, for the influence this movie has had (akin to This is Spinal Tap), it should certainly be included on the list of Modern Classic Films. Just as all other Coen Brothers films I’ve ever seen, it’s flawless in its construction. Yes, it’s crude and could certainly be less so, but it’s well done, and parodies the 30’s and 40’s noir detective thrillers while putting a decidedly new spin on it–it’s the kind of idea that  intrigues me: what would an average (or slightly below average) guy do when put in a really, really strange situation merely because he shares a name with someone?

This isn’t the last Coen Brothers film that I’ll review during this series…

Favorite Quotes:

The Dude minds. This will not stand! This aggression will not stand!

Hey! Careful man! There’s a beverage here!

Is this your homework Larry?…You’re about to enter a world of pain, Larry…You’re killing your father, Larry!

Are these the Nazis? No, these are the nihilists, we’ve got nothing to worry about.

The Dude Abides…


4 thoughts on “The Big Lebowski

  1. Despite your entertaining review, I still really don’t have much of a clue of what this movie is about. I got the whole doppelganger bit and that lots of misunderstandings happen…. but I’m guessing the rest is for laughs? Maybe this is just best experienced personally?

    Love the quote! “Are these the Nazis? No, these are the nihilists, we’ve got nothing to worry about.”

  2. You know, there really isn’t a point to the movie. It’s certainly a good postmodern film as it’s about nothing but misunderstandings and missteps.
    I tried to reflect that a bit, as there’s not really a plot other than different people trying to mess with other people to get money that’s not really existent and idiots trying to outsmart nincompoops and failing all around. It’ll give you whiplash, but you’re entertained while you’re at it…

  3. The only Coen Brothers film I’ve seen is “Raising Arizona” but that was a long time ago and I can’t be sure I saw the whole thing.

    A lot of people have told me that I need to see this film, but for whatever reason I haven’t.

    I enjoyed your review and I am not surprised you enjoyed as much as you did.

    I can’t wait until you get to movies you hate or at the very least are outside of your usual viewing preferences:-)


  4. Pingback: No Country For Old Men « Elementary, My Dear Reader

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