DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: THE BIG LEBOWSKI

Sunday, 3 June 2007


The Big Lebowski (1998) dir. Joel Coen
Starring: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman Steve Buscemi


“The Big Lebowski” is a curious film. Hot after their most successful film ever, “Fargo” which won the Coen Bros. an Academy Award for Best Screenplay, their next film was highly anticipated. Even after a hyped-up Cannes Special Presentation “The Big Lebowski” seemed to disappoint most critics and audiences. It’s ranked only sixth in its opening weekend and ended with only $17million in domestic box office. But over time the film has grown a cult following, and it’s generally considered to be one of their best and certainly funniest films.

After a trip to the grocery store to buy some milk, Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski comes home to find 2 assailants have broken into his house looking for some money owed to their boss, Jackie Treehorn. But it’s a case of mistaken identity. They are looking for ‘a’ Jeff Lebowski, not ‘the’ Jeff Lebowski. The assailants leave but not before one of them pees on The Dude’s rug. This incident angers him, mostly because, in his words, “it tied the room together”.

In search of compensation for his reug, The Dude vists the other Lebowksi, an eccentric wheelchair-bound millionaire, who lives in a Hearst-like mansion. He discovers the Big Lebowski’s trophy wife, Bunny, has been kidnapped and has been ransomed off by Treehorn who is a pornographic filmmaker. Somehow The Dude gets hired to find Bunny and deliver the ransom money. The Dude brings his bowling teammate, Vietnam vet Walter Sobchak (John Goodman) to help him in his endeavours. Their hijinks and misadventures take them across the city of L.A. meeting a whole sort of quirky characters, from Julianne Moore’s performance-artist sister of Lebowski, Maude, to her three nihilist henchmen to the porn king himself, played by Ben Gazzera. Since the film is based on the famously complex Hawks film “The Big Sleep”, the plot points are virtually impossible to summarize. But like most Raymond Chandler stories, “Lebowski” is not necessarily plot-driven, as situation-driven. The journey of The Dude and Walter involve a series of increasingly weird situations of conflict which moves the plot forward.

After the minimalism of “Fargo”, “Lebowski’s situation plot structure allowed the Coens better opportunity to exploit their trademark visual flare. Bridges is given three surreal dream sequences which allow the brothers to flex these muscles. Of course the most memorable is the Busby Berkeley sequence which is so long it’s given its own title sequence. T-Bone Burnett is employed to bring us a unique pop music soundtrack which includes memorable use of the CCR, The Gypsy Kings, Captain Beefhart, Elvis Costello, Kenny Rogers, Bob Dylan and more.

Much of the ‘cultness’ of the film is owed to Jeff Bridges who embodies “The Dude” perfectly. He is one of the most affable heroes in cinema history - a pot-smoking ex-hippie, who wears oversized sweaters and pajama pants. He mumbles and bumbles into situations with the carefree attitude of Columbo and walks with a slow and meandering gate. His manners and method of speech and dialogue scenes with Walter are so pleasurable he’s one of the most memorable of the long line of memorable Coen’s Bros. characters.


Buy it here: The Big Lebowski (Widescreen Collector's Edition)


Groovymarlin said...

A classic! I think "The Big Lebowski" really defines what it means to be a cult film. Heck, there's even an annual convention devoted to it. It's one of those films that I never get tired of watching.

Stagger Lee said...

I have to agree with groovymarlin.
I watch the film at any point that it starts at.
The wordplay is magnificant and the three personalities helped open up a new understanding into Coen films.
Had no idea about the annual convention though. Interesting!