US | 1998 | Directed by Joel & Ethan Coen
Logline: A simple man of leisure is rudely mistaken for a rich cat and has his life turned upside down whilst he seeks restitution for his ruined rug.
Philip Marlowe throws in the towel, rolls a fat doobie, fishes out his grooviest pari of Bermudas, grabs his smoothest bowl, and heads on down into trouble and enlightenment. Well, not quite. Marlowe, that is. But it's still the City of Angels, and there's a healthy helping of mystery, with lashings of sex, spiced with illicit drugs, and extra double dealings thrown in for good measure. Rolled like a fine burrito and spun down an alley toward ten pristine pins. This is a kooky tale in the life of The Dude, narrated by The Stranger, but you can call it The Big Lebowski.
Joel and Ethan Coen have crafted some of the most memorable movie yarns of the past thirty-five years, in particular Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, Barton Fink, Fargo, No Country for Old Men, and The Big Lebowski is no exception. Effervescent dialogue, charismatic characters, bold imagery, and a delicious twist of classic genre tropes, they paint small stories with big brush stroke, embellished with rich cinematic nuances, and a most wry sense of humour.
Between the brothers (Joel is credited as director, Ethan as producer, and both as screenwriters) they have a wonderful knack of making their movies resonate like pieces of classic literature, or a great pulpy paperback. The Big Lebowski slides along like a Tom Robbins fairytale; great visual motifs amidst playful, yet oddly serious adult ideas. Running the gauntlet of murder and intrigue, jumping the hurdles of corruption and betrayal, slapping dysfunction in the face, tripping up eccentricity, and then out the other side for a long, cool beverage, a spliff, and that important bowling tournament.
Hell, you can't let Jesus (Hey-Zeus!) screw you over, nor let some damn Kraut nihilists drop a marmot in your bath, and get away with it! Nor let any porno thugs slip something in your favourite cocktail. Watch out for that avant garde artiste sophisticate, she's looking to fornicate with intent, and the sexy wife of her millionaire father, she'll suck your dick for a thousand bucks and not bat an eyelid. Slip them shades on, man. It's cool. Dive into a dream or two, life's just one big long alley, and a rug's a rug's a rug. Or maybe it's something more.
Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, and Julianne Moore have a ball in this eclectic suburban farce. With tasty side roles to chew on for the likes of Steve Buscemi, John Turturro, David Thewlis, Peter Stormare, and Ben Gazzara, the Coen lads, like QT, are brilliant in their casting (and we know that's half the job done!) I'm sure that was David Lynch chauffuering in one scene! And let's please not forget Sam Elliott's dulcet tones and craggily handsome features as the Stetson-topped Stranger, yes, that's just the dandy sarsaparilla on top.
The Big Lebowski gives a big twentieth anniversary grin. If you're coming to it for the first time, it definitely deserves more than one viewing. Unassuming, yet quietly rewarding, and most satisfyingly off the wall. This is the White Russian sorbet to cleanse your cinematic palette.