The Big Lebowski, 1998, USA
Director: Joel Coen
Stars: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman & Julianne Moore
If you are one of those folk who has grown increasingly weary of reading review after review about people proclaiming their endless love for the Coen brothers’ cult classic and how the character Jeffery ‘’The Dude’’ Lebowski borders on demigod status…then I recommend not reading the rest of this review, as I am no different to those people in that I have no problem professing my admiration of ‘The Big Lebowski’. As for The Dude…I don’t think of him as god like, He’s far cooler than that!
The Dude is a man at complete ease with his life of bowling and white Russians, but when he is mistaken for a millionaire and his rug is soiled, The Dude attempts to get reimbursement for his rug but stumbles into a world of crime, mystery and Nihilists.
‘The Big Lebowski’ is one of those films that I have a hard time imagining how someone could dislike. I just cannot fathom the concept of someone sitting through the film and coming out on the other side saying that they didn’t enjoy it. This is why it came as such a shock to me that my best buddy had this feeling after seeing the film for the first time, to which my reply was probably something along the lines of ‘’but…but. The Dude, man!...and the rug and the hillariousness’’. If I had to say what would be something that may make ‘Lebowski’ a little more inaccessible to some audiences, is probably it’s simplistic and seemingly laid back approach. I believe the whole film can be summed up by a quote from Walter in the handoff scene ‘’the beauty of this is its simplicity, once a plan gets to complex everything can go wrong’’ with this line of seemingly throw away dialogue, I believe the Coen brothers are basically outlining their entire film. If you think about it, the entire situation at the start of the film isn’t really all the complicated but through the (hilarious) actions of The Dude and Walter, the situation becomes complex, and therein lies the beauty of the Coens’ film, it is such a perfectly executed, character driven film that the events the audience is witnessing feels like they are solely the responsibility of the character’s choices and actions and not just words on paper. That’s part of the Coens’ genius, they create a world of their own and make the audience oblivious to the fact that they are even there.
‘Lebowski’ is a film that exceeds in so many different genres, apart from being one of the greatest comedies of all time, it also a terrific crime film and even a compelling Mystery. It was actually loosely based on the Howard Hawks – Humphrey Bogart classic ‘The Big Sleep’, while that is definitely a good film, I would be lying if I said I enjoyed it nearly as much as I do ‘Lebowski’. The Coens are such versatile filmmakers that they are able execute the combination of all the different sub genres beautifully, thus resulting in the most watchable of films. As per usual, the film is packed with Coens-esque dialogue with such hilarious and witty characters exchanges throughout, which a testament to the actor’s performances and the incredible script they are working with.
‘Lebowski’ is one in a long line of many collaborations between the Coens and revered Cinematographer Roger Deakins, there are reasons why Deakins is arguably the most respected Cinematographer working today and this film is one of them. The man is able to compact so much into the frame and his work really embodies the fact that film is an art form. From the incredible sweeping, opening shot to those mesmerizing dream sequences, Deakins is on top of his game here. The musical choices in this film are also amazing, classics from the likes of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bob Dylan and Kenny Rogers play throughout and accompany a riveting score by Carter Burwell.
Another element of brilliance in this film is the performances from its incredible cast. As I alluded to before, The Dude is one of cinemas greatest characters, the man is damn near impossible to dislike, his laid back attitude, Zen personality and love of bowling make him the most loveable of hero’s, throw in the fact that he has about as much idea of the proceedings as we do and you have an icon for the ages. The Dude is played to absolute perfection by Jeff Bridges, it is impossible to elaborate how cool the man is. Bridges is supported by a phenomenal cast that includes John Goodman, in his best performance in a career full of great ones, playing Walter a War vet who can’t let the memories of Vietnam go. One of the biggest problems my friend had with this film was that he really disliked Walter’s character, I can understand this as Walter can be pretty abusive and stubborn, especially to Donny, but I love the character and I feel like his heart is always in the right place…plus his outbursts are hysterically funny as is his commitment to Shabbos, The Jewish day of rest. Steve Buscemi is great as the always sympathetic Donny, who is always being told to ‘’Shut the fuck up’’ by Walter. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is hilarious as devoted servant to David Huddleston’s ‘’The Big Lebowski’’ and Julianne Moore gives another example of why she is one of the very best actresses of her generation playing the role of the enigmatic Maude Lebowski. There are also plenty of appearances from the likes of John Turturro, Tara Reid, Peter Stormare and Sam Elliott. Everyone is on top of their game here.
There are plenty of reasons why ‘The Big Lebowski’ is the beloved cult classic that it is, the main being that it is simply a comedic masterpiece. It’s an incredible piece of filmmaking from two incredibly talented filmmakers. Plus it features the iconic character of the Dude…man. In my view, ‘The Big Lebowski’ is one the greatest comedies ever made…but that’s just like, my opinion man.