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   THE BIG LEBOWSKI (1998) 

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CAST
Jeff Bridges
John Goodman
Julianne Moore
Steve Buscemi
David Huddleston
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Tara Ried
John Turturro
Ben Gazarra
Sam Elliott

DIRECTED BY
Joel Coen

PURCHASE


DVD



Soundtrack




Time: 117 mins.
Rating: R
Genre: Comedy


The only reason I didn't think this was a film about bowling is because I read something about it before I went. There are no other filmmakers more misrepresented in advertising than the Coen brothers. Which is a good thing, because then more people would go...and surely be freaked out. I couldn't believe the turnout at the theater I went to. It was packed, which worried me greatly. Because if all the people in the theater actually thought what they were about to watch is funny, as a nation we may be in a lot of trouble. Of course, then again, at least the Coen brothers make you think a little unlike most of the boring, middle-of-the-road, mind-numbingly banal crap put out by Hollywood.

In any case, THE BIG LEBOWSKI is a film about a drugged out, middle-aged Los Angeles guy named "The Dude" who's accidently dragged into a kidnapping plot because he has the same name (Jeff Lebowski) as the victim's husband, a local millionaire. The plot is set into motion when the Dude, pissed off because one of the kidnappers pisses on his favorite rug (it tied the room together), confronts the "real" Jeff Lebowski to get money to replace his rug, since it was Lebowski's fault. Lebowski doesn't exactly see it the same way. He finds everything about the Dude and his lifestyle repulsive, however, he needs a patsy to do his dirty work in order to find his trophy wife.

What Lebowski fails to realize is just because the Dude is a stoner that doesn't mean he's stupid. The Dude agrees to help because he wants restitution for his rug and the plotters won't let him go away quietly. This starts a whirlwind of ransom notes, break-ins, shake-downs and botched drop-offs. The plot gets more and more complicated as we meet each of the players, who reveal a different piece of the puzzle. You'd think since the Dude is almost constantly drunk and high it would be hard for him to figure out what's really happening and therefore leave us in the dark. However, his gut instincts lead him in the right direction and keep us in the thick of the caper. Not that the shenanigans really matter.


"Fortunately, I'm adhering to a pretty strict, uh, drug, uh, regimen to keep my mind, you know, uh, limber."

Like most Coen brothers films, the joy is in the characters not the plot. The Dude is a warm-hearted guy who just wants to live his life – drink, smoke pot and bowl – without being bothered, but that's not in the cards here. Everyone believes they can manipulate him because he's not always playing with a full deck and that's where he fools them. He thinks better stoned and though he's dragged into this mess, he's also able to pull himself out relatively unscathed. I liked the Dude and enjoyed spending time in his world. Bridges is brilliant. I'm not sure this is a role for which he'll want to be remembered, but it's because of his pitch perfect performance that this film is a cult classic. The supporting cast (Goodman, Moore, Gazzara, Buscemi) were wonderfully weird as always. Goodman was crazy, obnoxious and a joy to watch. The perfect counterpart to Bridges cool, no problem attitude. The truly scary thing about the people who populate the Coen brothers' films is that you know they exist in real life.

The Coens are truly visual filmmakers who know how to use the medium in unique and entertaining ways. You will never think of bowling in the same way again. Their unconventional use of the camera and spot-on locations create a world that is both surreal and normal all at the same time. Not half as bloody as FARGO (but with twice as much cursing), it's interesting to see them step away from the gore without loosing their touch for the power of violence. This obviously isn't comedy for everyone, but it sure is funny to me.


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