Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Big Lebowski (1998)

Seen: On blu-ray on our big screen/projector set-up, from my boyfriend's collection.

We have slowly amassed a decently-sized blu-ray collection that we pretty regularly forget about, so the other night we endeavored to actually watch one. The Big Lebowski seemed a good choice since neither of us had really seen it in full since high school. Also since it's awesome. The remarkably twisty plot focuses on Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski (Jeff Bridges), a friendly hippie who likes to get high and bowl. His laid-back lifestyle is thrown into turmoil when he is mistaken for the other Jeffrey Lebowski (David Huddleston), an aging millionaire with a promiscuous wife (Tara Reid) who owes money all over town. Suddenly the Dude finds himself deeply embroiled in a convoluted conspiracy involving porn stars, nihilists, kidnapping, feminist art, rugs, bowling, dismemberment, theft, and a 15-year-old little punk.

With an impressive cast (including several people I didn't recognize when I first saw it), a crazy and often nonsensical story, an iconic protagonist, some memorable imagery, and a simultaneously goofy and dark as hell script, The Big Lebowski is made for cult status. The ever-magnetic Sam Elliott narrates with cowboy flair, lending a comedic gravitas to the Dude's predicament, while Bridges moves through each scene with a charismatic bafflement and pitch-perfect line delivery. I'll admit the actual plot loses me at some points, as there are so many characters and I'm too busy giggling at the silly jokes or gasping at the ludicrous situations that arise.

Luckily the plot doesn't matter all that much, as it's largely an excuse to throw a bunch of wacky actors together and see what happens. Between Bridges' hippie sputtering, John Goodman's impassioned yelping, Julianne Moore's matter-of-fact lecturing, Steve Buscemi's adorable confusion, and Philip Seymour Hoffman's everything, it's too much fun to focus too closely on the peripheral goings-on that make up the mystery. And yet, the Coens in their infinite wisdom do churn out a compelling neo-noir-ish criminal tale with various subplots that come together in unexpected ways. I mean, is there anything those brothers can't do? My new theory is that they first envisioned the crazy dream sequence, and framed the rest of the story around that. The whole point of making the film was to see Jeff Bridges gyrating in a surrealistic pornographic bowling alley. This makes sense to me.

4.5/5

Pair This Movie With: My first thought is Fargo, but Miles suggests Dumb and Dumber since it's his favorite comedy and it "stars another person named Jeff". So take your pick.

6 comments:

  1. We wound up watching this at Thanksgiving! New post-Turkey tradition, I think? My cousins didn't really get it, but I liked it a lot a second time around.

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  2. It always amazes how many talented actors/actresses (minus Tara Reid) are in this film. The flick gets better with age for me. I remember seeing it in the theatres during my first year at university. It got myself and some other people on my dorm floor hooked on White Russians. It is pretty much all we drank for weeks after seeing the film.

    Also, I agree with Miles, the film will work nicely in a double bill with Dumb and Dumber.

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  3. Jesus is my favourite character... Although I don't think I could pull off lilac as he does...

    The Dude Abides!!

    Great write up my friend

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  4. This will sound shocking to many, no doubt, but the first time I saw this I didn't like it and quickly forgot about it. That was a long time ago. One of these days I'm gonna have to watch it again because I clearly missed something.

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  5. Great review Alex, glad you guys revisited The Dude!

    I love this movie and I think at one point I had it on repeat! Back in the day (geez I feel old now )every time I caught up with a friend of mine we used to watch The Big Lebowski and spend the next few days quoting it back to each other!

    It's such a wonderful film, full of unique characters, quotable lines, and it's worth watching just to see the characters interact with each other!

    Always worth a second and third viewing!!

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  6. One of the funniest films I've ever seen. This alongside Bad Santa and Withnail and I would probably put me in hospital from overzealous, uncontrollable guffaws.

    You hit the nail on the head with this review Alex, good stuff! :)

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