Movie Review: The Big Lebowski (1998)


Title: The Big Lebowski
Release Date: March 6, 1998
Director: Joel Coen
Production Company: Working Title Films
Summary/Review:

Many years ago a friend told me “You’ve got to see The Big Lebowski.”  So I got the DVD and watched and then went back to him and told him I’d watched.  “Yeah, I didn’t like that movie,” he told me.  When I said, “But you told me to watch it!,” he replied “That’s because I knew you would like it.”  I guess my friend knows me because I do in fact like The Big Lebowski and I think rewatching it after many years I like it even better than before.

The Big Lebowski  is basically the ultimate shaggy dog story.  It takes inspiration from Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett novels and their movie adaptations.  It’s not so much a noir detective story as the episode structure of the protagonist falling into a series of conflicts with strange people that seem like that might add up to something, but upon reflection it doesn’t make much sense.  Actually, the movie Laura which I watched recently is a lot like this too.

The Big Lebowski is about “The Dude” (Jeff Bridges), whose real name is Jeff Lebowski, an unemployed slacker who spends his time bowling, drinking White Russians, and smoking pot.  A couple of hired thugs mistake him for a wealthy man also named Jeffrey Lebowski and pee on his rug “that really held the room together.”  In an attempt to get his rug replaced by the “Big Lebowski” (David Huddleston), The Dude ends up being recruited as a middleman when Lebowski’s trophy wife (Tara Reid) is kidnapped.

The supporting cast includes The Dude’s unstable friend Walter (John Goodman), the ultimate mansplainer and possible future MAGA who is on The Dude’s bowling team along with the dim but kind Donny (Steve Buscemi).  Among the people The Dude encounters investigating the kidnapping are Maude Lebowski (Julianne Moore), the Big Lebowski’s daughter who is a performance artist with a ridiculously affecte mid-Atlantic accent. Then there’s Same Elliot as The Stranger, who narrates part of the film and drinks sarsaparilla at the bar with no clear reason for being in the movie.

The Big Lebowski is great because of its quotable dialogue, great performances (even actors who only appear in one or two scenes are memorable), and an eclectic soundtrack with songs tied to the various characters.  The Dude also hates the Eagles, man.  The movie may be one of the all-time great Los Angeles films, and I’m glad I watched it so soon after Mulholland Drive which makes a great double feature.

Rating: ****1/2

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