The Big Lebowski (1998)

“All the Dude ever wanted was his rug back…”

Directed by: Joel and Ethan Coen

Starring: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, and many other famous faces…

In a nutshell:

A cult classic so culty that it even inspired a religious cult, Dudeism. The Coen’s shambling stoner odyssey is a deadbeat homage to Raymond Chandler. It inspired millions to order a White Russian as their cocktail of choice. Line for line, it is one of the most quotable films in movie history. It’s also one of the sweariest – the word “fuck” (or variation of) is dropped 260 times…

The plot:

Jeffrey Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) is an unemployed middle-aged slacker whose hobbies include smoking weed, driving around, having the occasional acid flashback, and bowling. He spends most of his time at the alley with his buddies Walter (John Goodman), a volatile Vietnam veteran and Donnie (Steve Buscemi), a meek surfer dude who rarely says anything and never misses a strike.

“Friends like these, huh Gary?”

The Dude’s world is turned upside down when he’s mistaken for his millionaire namesake, the “Big” Lebowski of the title, played by David Huddleston. The wealthier Lebowski’s trophy wife Bunny (Tara Reid) owes money to local porn king Jackie Treehorn (Ben Gazzara), and two of Treehorn’s goons try shaking the Dude down for it by mistake. Realising he’s broke and the wrong guy, they decide to piss on his rug.

That rug really tied the room together, so The Dude visits the Big Lebowski to seek compensation. He ends up getting drawn into a mystery surrounding Bunny’s kidnapping instead…

Best Performances:

That’s incredibly tough because the Coens have created a movie stuffed with iconic characters played by a top-notch cast who are clearly all-in on the project.

To mention a few, you need to start with Jeff Bridges as the Dude – this will probably be the role he’s remembered for when he’s dead and gone, and the whole film revolves around his fuzzy, shaggy presence. His unwitting sleuth is always several steps behind the Chandler-esque plot, and much comedy is derived from his befuddled interaction with the rogue’s gallery of off-kilter characters.

You just could as easily plump for any of the following and no-one would call you an asshole for it:

John Turturro‘s strutting paederast bowling prodigy, Jesus Quintana (“That creep can roll, man!”)

“Are you ready to be fucked, man?”

Julianne Moore as Maude Lebowski, an upper-crust artist who also hires the Dude to investigate her stepmother’s disappearance. (“My art has been commended as being strongly vaginal…)

Sam Elliot as the laconic Stranger, a drawling cowboy who seems to have drifted in from another movie to narrate the tale and give the Dude an occasional pep talk. (Stranger: “Do you have to use so many cuss words?” Dude: “What the fuck are you talking about?”)

Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the Big Lebowski’s grovelling assistant, Brandt. (“Her life is in your hands, Dude.”)

“That’s marvellous!”

David Thewlis as Maude’s giggling video artist pal, Knox Harrington. (Dude: “The friend with the cleft asshole?”)

Peter Stormare as Uli, aka Karl Hungus – a German nihilist who moonlights as a porn star in Jackie Treehorn productions like as Logjammin’. (“Meine dispatcher says there is something wrong with deine Kabel.”)

Or take your pick from about a dozen others…

Musical Moment:

The soundtrack is packed with choice needle drops, from Bob Dylan‘s “The Man in Me” to the Gipsy Kings‘ sublime Latino take on “Hotel California”. Perhaps the tune that captures the movie’s cult appeal the most is Kenny Rogers’ “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)”, which accompanies one of the surreal Busby Berkeley-inspired fantasy dance sequences.

“I just dropped in…”

Dated/Troublesome Stuff: Turturro sure Hey creates an indelible impression as Jesus Quintana, even getting his own spin-off movie, The Jesus Rolls. But it boggles my mind that there are some dickheads out there with Jesus Quintana tattoos – the guy’s a kiddy fiddler FFS (“Eight-year-olds, Dude.”)

Verdict:

The Big Lebowski is a thing of pure joy and often ranks as many people’s favourite Coen Brothers movie. The perpetually baked adventures of the Dude makes it a stoner classic, and it’s packed with so many great little details and character moments that you’ll still be picking up on things you haven’t noticed even on the 30th viewing. For all its cult appeal, it’s also a beautifully made movie. The Coens direct intuitively, moving the Dude from one outlandish set piece to the next and in and out of dream sequences without ever missing a beat. The music choices are inspired and Roger Deakin’s lensing is dreamy, somehow making bowling look sexy.

I love it because I can stick it on at any time – if I’m down in the dumps it’ll always cheer me up; if I’m feeling great it’ll just make me feel even better.

Rating: 290/300

If you love this, also check out: The Big Sleep (1946), The Long Goodbye (1973), Inherent Vice (2014)

Trailer:

Buy your copy from Amazon here

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