The Big Lebowski * * * * *
Directors: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Screenplay: Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
Starring: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro, David Huddleston, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Elliott, Ben Gazarra, David Thewlis, Jon Polito, Tara Reid, Peter Stormare, Flea, Torsten Voges, Aimee Mann, Mark Pellegrino, Philip Moon, Jack Kehler, Jimmie Dale Gilmour, Leon Russom, Ajgie Kirkland, Asia Carrera.
This film has such a massive cult following that it has even spawned a traveling, annual festival called “The Lebowski Fest“, at which fans congregate dressed as their favourite characters. It has also amassed a new belief system called “Dudeism” of which you can be ordained as a Dudeist priest. Now, this might be going a bit far but it’s all in the name of fun, of which, this Coen brothers tale supplies plenty of.
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 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.
Included in My Top Ten films.