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The Big Lebowski Review


RATING:
(4 STARS)

The Big Lebowski has to be one of the most absurd movies I’ve ever seen. It’s practically plotless. Its comedy is gleefully absurd. And it doesn’t once try to be something it’s not. As always, I admire the Coens for going so out there and not caring if they lose a majority of viewers along the way. It features incredibly vivid characters in unbelievable situations. Is it lacking something more? Of course, but it’s still a ton of fun.

The film is a story of mistaken identity on steroids. Jeff Lebowski (Jeff Bridges), aka The Dude, is a stoner stuck in the 1960s. He doesn’t work, doesn’t really change his clothes often, and spends all of his spare time bowling with his friends, the loud and proud Vietman vet Walter (John Goodman) and the mild-mannered bonehead Donny (Steve Buscemi). One evening, The Dude is accosted in his own home by two men looking for a The Big Lebowski (David Huddleston), one of Los Angeles’ wealthiest businessmen.

After the crooks soil his carpet (which perfectly complements the room), The Dude sets up a meeting with this other Lebowski to settle the debt. Things don’t exactly go as planned, but shortly afterward, The Big Lebowski contacts The Dude again with a proposition. His wife, Bunny (Tara Reid), has been kidnapped, and he wants The Dude to deliver the $1 million ransom. The Dude obliges, but his ineptitude, combined with the ineptitude of everyone around him, causes things to veer off the tracks quickly, and no one quite knows exactly how it happened.

While the plot takes a lot of time to set up, there really isn’t much of it to speak of. Once we know how the characters relate to one another, the film plays out like a series of hilarious vignettes. Everyone has a different agenda, so nothing goes as planned. It’s all just a riot to watch. I can only imagine how much fun it would have been in a, um, different state of mind.

And as much humor is derived out of the outlandish circumstances of these character, even more is derived from the way they speak to one another. “This is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass,” “Donny, you’re out of your element,” and “Say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos,” were all-timers for me. Walter is one of the funniest film characters I’ve seen in years, and while I’ve found John Goodman’s manic tendencies a little much in previous Coen efforts, like Barton Fink and Raising Arizona, I thought he was perfect for the material here.

The star of the show, however, is Jeff Bridges’ Dude. The character is larger-than-life, a real cult figure, yet he somehow doesn’t disappoint. Is Bridges’ performance amazing or anything? No, not really. But he’s perfect. He is The Dude. There is no Dude without Bridges. And as good as he is in serious fare like Crazy Heart and True Grit, this is probably the performance he’ll be remembered for—if for no other reason than the character is a legend.

The Big Lebowski is far from a perfect film, but it’s so much fun to watch that any and all flaws are forgiven. The Coens eschew plot and conventions in favor of crafting the most absurd story they can. And they definitely pull it off.

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