MOVIE REVIEW: The Big Lebowski (1998)

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THE BIG LEBOWSKI (1998, directed by Joel & Ethan Coen)

10th Anniversary Limited “Bowling Ball” Edition

Way out west there was this fella… fella I wanna tell ya about. Fella by the name of Jeff Lebowski.

Okay sir, you’re a Lebowski, I’m a Lebowski, that’s terrific, I’m very busy so what can I do for you?  Well, I’m gonna tell you about this movie.  First of all, for the rockers who read LeBrain’s blog, rest assured, there is a music connection.  And that’s the killer soundtrack.  From Captain Beefheart, to Bob Dylan (the incredible “The Man In Me”), Elvis Costello, CCR, the Gipsy Kings (“Hotel California”), Kenny Rogers & The First Edition, and even the fuckin’ Eagles, this movie is loaded with solid tunes.  There are even appearances by Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Aimee Mann, and Flea!  (Yes, that Flea.)

Ahh, who am I kidding? If you’re a fan, you don’t need me to sell you on this movie. Hence, I shall review this movie in two parts: For fans, and for non-fans. Dudes and Un-dudes.

DUDISM

FOR DUDES:

The new “bowling ball” edition of Lebowski is awesome. Finally we’re given the special features that we’ve been asking for, for years! No audio commentary track, but the Coens and the Dude himself will give you some insight to the film and its characters. After two disappointing editions, this is so overdue. Two discs, featurettes, that weird intro, Lebowskifest, an interactive map of Los Angeles, it’s all here. Most of your questions will be answered, but of course not all…some mystery must always remain. Plus the bowling ball just looks cool. I have mine on my entertainment centre, and it’s a conversation starter. “What is that bowling ball doing there?” It’s sturdy and it houses the DVDs in two slip cases. Life does not stop and start at your convenience, so be sure to pick this up and enjoy while you can, it’s limited edition.

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FOR UN-DUDES:

One important thing about this film that I must stress is, don’t try to understand the plot on first viewing. It’s every bit as stupifying to the first time viewer as it is to Jeffrey Lebowski. Just enjoy. My feeling (and this is just my feeling) is that The Dude himself (Jeff Bridges) doesn’t know what the heck is going on, so neither should you. The plot is not complicated, but your thinking about it might be very uptight. I don’t necessarily recommend that you stick to a strict drug regimen to keep you mind limber, but having a few white Russians might help.

The Dude (the laziest man in Los Angeles) is unemployed (or “a bum” to some) and spends most of his time having acid flashbacks and bowling with Walter (John Goodman) and Donny (Steve Buscemi). One day his home is broken into by two thugs looking for money. They have mistaken The Dude for a millionaire with the same given name: Jeff Lebowski. During this break-in, Wu micturates on The Dude’s rug. That rug really tied the room together. Walter tells The Dude to try to take up the rug issue with the other Jeff Lebowski, the millionaire (David Huddleston). And this is where our adventure begins.

An amazing soundtrack backs a hilariously confusing movie about a guy in way over his head. There are a lot of facets, a lot of ins and outs, a lot of interested parties and strands to keep in Duder’s head. Along the way you will meet The Stranger (Sam Elliot), Brant (Philip Seymore Hoffman), Bunny Lebowski (Tara Reid) and a group of nihilists lead by Peter Stormare. Things are complicated by the appearance of Maude Lebowski (Julianne Moore), a kidnapping, and a ransom note. Can The Dude recover the million dollars? All he wants is a finder’s fee. Perferably in cash. He has to check with his accountant on this, but he’s worried about being put in a higher tax, uhh, you know. All this with next round-robin of the bowling tournament starting. And The Jesus (John Turturro) is ready to take them down next Wednesday, baby.

Brilliantly written, brilliantly directed, brilliantly performed. Yes, you should be confused the first time you view it. By second, third, and fourth watch, those stands in Duder’s head come together, supported by musical cues (listen for CCR), odd bits of dialogue (“Johnson”) and other clues.

I can’t recommend this movie enough. You too will become a Little Lebowski Urban Achiever, and perhaps even an obsessive fan, dressing up and going to Lebowskifests. You never know. At the very least you might just find a new enjoyment of white Russians. Just don’t run out of non-dairy creamer. Is there a Ralph’s around?

5/5 stars

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13 comments

  1. A perfect review for established fans AND the uninitiated. If I was still collecting DVDs this would be a no-brainer purchase, but since I rarely have time these days to re-watch movies (and when I do, I’m usually stumbling on a cable channel) I’ll just live vicariously through you and say “Wow, that edition looks great.” I saw The Big Lebowski in a theater the weekend it was released, and I wasn’t immediately blown away even though I laughed a lot. I think I needed to be drunk that first time, but it was a matinee and walking out into the sunshine after the film was a bit disconcerting. Of course, by my second viewing and beyond I completely “got” it. I saw it with my girlfriend at the time, and to this day she’s the only woman I’ve ever met who likes this movie. The rest of them always say, “That’s a guy’s movie.” Not sure if that’s true, but it does help to have a Y-chromosome. The interaction between Jeff Bridges, John Goodman & Steve Buscemi is phenomenal. Now I’m in the mood to watch it, and I wish I owned the DVD. Haha, gotta love the irony. Anyway, great job.

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    1. Thanks Rich!

      I only know one girl who likes it as well, my friend Shannon who introduced it to me. My wife hates it. I don’t even know if she’s seen it all the way through.

      One thing I’d like to do is get around to reviewing the book that I posted a picture of, I’m A Lebowski, You’re A Lebowski, because it too is excellent!

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  2. Ha I bought that bowling ball set for my sister for Christmas. For the record, it’s her favourite movie, so I know at least one girl who likes it.

    I just wathed this the other day myself, and still laughed my ass off. I never liked the Dude-knocked-out psychedelic scenes, thought they went on too long, but Bridges does a mean soft-shoe! Anyway, this film has a lot of heart. It’s simply a great film. GREAT.

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    1. So we EACH know one girl who likes it! Cool!

      I never get tired of this movie. In fact I’m sure I’ll upgrade to a blu-ray. I’m just crazy like that. But I’ll keep the bowling ball, because it’s cool.

      The psychedelic scenes aren’t the greatest, but it certainly fits the vibe of the Dude.

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    1. Thanks for the link! I think I’m going to post a couple of things around my office.

      I did actually get to use, “She’s not my special lady, she’s my f*cking lady friend,” once.

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  3. This is a fun movie, no question about it, but I admit I never really got why it became such a cult object. It’s no more or less sharp, amusing or incisive than any of the other Coen Brothers films that veer toward comedy. Both “Fargo” and “Raising Arizona” are better, funnier and more cohesive. Good points: Bridges is great, Julianne Moore is terrific and the Busby Berkeley sendup is awesome. Bad points: the plot is incomprehensible, I never understood why the Steve Buscemi character was in the film at all (other than to provide a role for Steve Buscemi), and the bits with John Goodman are a little tiring as the film goes on. Maybe I just didn’t “get” it, but it seems no more worthy of worship than any other amusing, generally well-made comedy film. I’ve heard people refer to it as the funniest film ever made, and I’m like, whaaaa…?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sean, I get what you’re saying. I’m a huge Coen fan. Fargo is truly an incredible film, and yes very funny too.

      I haven’t seen the Fargo TV series yet but it’s on a couple year end lists, so I’ll have to get to it.

      It’s hard to say just what I love about Lebowski. It certainly has its cult following. I know a guy, a guy who owned a winery in Niagara Falls who went by the named Lebowski, who purchased 100 copies on VHS to give away. They were like his business cards!

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  4. Ok the Dude might be the laziest guy in L.A. but CB is the laziest guy in the world (In Canada anyway, Vancouver Island for sure)) and here’s why. I’m stealing other people reviews (with permission and royalties) on new movies. I can’t get out of the 70’s filmmaking and i do like newer films ‘Lebowski’ being one. It wouldn’t be for a while but I’d like to borrow your take, cross out your name and write CB in crayon. Cool?

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