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The Big Lebowski

A comedy movie directed by Ethan and Joel Coen

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Am I wrong here?

  • Feb 25, 2010
was a great noir debut about misunderstanding identity.
Raising Arizona was a screwball comedy about stealing an identity.
Miller's Crossing was a deep gangster movie about discovering identity ("Nobody knows anybody. Not that well")
Barton Fink was a Hollywood insiders movie about understanding your own identity.
The Hudsucker Proxy was a fast-talking dialogue driven 1930s comedy about keeping your identity in the face of all odds against.

Fargo changed the thread to highlight one of the all time great quiet heroes, perhaps as an embodied example of a hero totally secure in her identity.

And now Lebowski. First, let me say when Lebowski came out, at about the same time as Kingpin, I judged (correctly, I think) that one should only see one bowling movie in one's life, so I chose (incorrectly, I think) Kingpin. This means that I had not seen Lebowski until now as I started watching the Coen Brother catalog in chronological order, and when the movie is now both a huge cultural touchpoint and a cult classic that is probably the Coen Brothers' most-seen movie. Because of these heightened expectations, I must confess to being disappointed with Lebowski.

First the bare bones of the plot: Jeff Lebowski, known as and introduced by himself as "The Dude" (and variations), is mistaken for another ("The Big") Lebowski by a couple of small town thugs. Attempting to get restitution from the Big Lebowski, Dude and his bowling buddies Walter (John Goodman) and Donnie (Steve Buscemi) get tangled up in a comedy of errors that involves the possible kidnapping of the Big L's trophy wife. Craziness ensues as The Dude muddles (and tokes) his way through life as he always does.

So, how to relate to the Dude? He seems sure of his identity, although it is hard to be certain of this because while taken aback by the straight but sometimes bizarre dialogue that people throw at him, we often find him repeating the dialogue back later in other and often unrelated situations. Is this his voice, or is it the weed talking? Because of Jeff Bridges' sympathetic portrayal, aging-stonerism ha become if not an accepted lifestyle, certainly one that many find hilarious to consume as entertainment and imitation.

Is he a hero? Well, he certainly is to the cult core who consume his lifestyle (and his recreational drugs?) as entertainment and imitation. And he does survive to the end of the movie, and could even be said to transcend the ensued craziness that takes place. Sometimes muddling through with weed and bowling can be heroic, but making it the core of one's worldview and living it out everyday seems to me to be difficult to identify as heroic. He's likable, he would be a fun and funny (but very frustrating at times) friend, but a hero? No.

The movie-making choices also struck me as odd in this movie. While almost all the Coen Brothers movies to date have features fantastic elements, they indulged their fantasies in a couple of extended fantasy segments here that may have advanced characterization, but just seem weird when watching the movie straight. Yeah, I get it, trippy fun, but inspired movie making? The language also was off putting. IMDB counts:

292 F-words or variants
161 Dudes
147 uses of "Man" as an interjection by the Dude

As narrator and Deus ex machina Sam Elliot points out to the Dude, the curse words are excessive, as well as suggesting just plain intellectual laziness. It is well known that the Brothers script their dialogue down to the pauses and punctuation, so we know the language is not ad-libbed or accidental. Clearly the language is intended to frame the Dude, Walter, and Donny as lazy, just as the fantasy sequences are supposed to (I suppose?) identify the Dude as a weeded-up dreamer. They work as intended by the Coen Brothers, but I'm not sure it is the inspired movie making I expect from them.

I know I'm on an island here with these criticisms, based on the popularity and cult intensity of the fan base for Lebowski. And in truth, at the end of the movie, I was smiling and enjoying the ending, breathing a sigh of relief that all ends well, or as well as a movie can that concludes with the main characters back at a bowling alley and happy to be there. When the movied ended I initially thought that I would rate it 3 stars, but 24 hours later as I write my review bumped it up to 4 stars. So far it is my least favorite CB movie, but one that I suspect may grow on me.

Am I wrong here?

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More The Big Lebowski reviews
review by . July 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Dude, the chinaman is not the issue here...
The Coen Brothers. Jeff Bridges. Steve Buscemi. John Goodman. Julianne Moore. Sam god-damn Elliot. Seriously – what more can you ask for in a film?      From start to finish, the Coen Brother’s “The Big Lebowski” is going to take you on a wild journey through the depths of the local bowling alley to confrontations with German nihilists and pornography tycoons to random instances of urination – this movie has it all.      I originally …
review by . July 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
best comedy ever.
What Pompted You to write a Review?   I couldn't stop laughing when i saw this movie.This movie made me try my first white russian tahnk you big lebowski for introducing me to that drink.     How was the Plot, Acting, Direction?   That was an orignal plot that realy pulled all the comedy together.     Were You ENTERTAINED?   I have seen the movie 20 times and i still laugh.     Did It Fulfill Expectations? Hype …
review by . July 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Lebowski Is Here To Stay
When I first saw this movie I was fairly young, enough so that I didn't really get the humor. But, only now after watching it again can I really see how great a movie this is, from fever dreams about bowling with the gods to scattering of "Donny's" ashes flying back into Jeff Bridges face, this is a funny movie. But, then again, can you expect anything less from the Coen brothers? The plot is great, the acting is quirky but funny, and direction just as good.      …
review by . July 10, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
This movie is a Coen Brother classic. It follows a man known as "The Dude" through a series of mishaps that all happen because his real name happens to be Mr. Lebowski. In classic Coen brothers style, There are plenty of intertwining plot lines that require you to have a flow chart ready, but once again, all is explained in the end. This movie is a prime example of the videography that I have come to associate with The Coen Brothers. But i will say, it isn't for everyone. It can be …
Quick Tip by . July 26, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
I have watched the movie more times than I can remember and it remains sharp and funny. Don't watch it cut for TV, it just doesn't make sense.
Quick Tip by . July 21, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
The Coen brothers never go wrong and with the Dude you'll be drinking white Russians til you're sick
Quick Tip by . July 06, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Stoner bowler and his odd friends weave through the tapestry of LA and meet all sorts of different folks. Abandon all hope of needing an important story and enjoy the ride.
Quick Tip by . July 27, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
A great comdedy classic. Jeff Bridges is the DUDE. a great cult classic........."this is bowling, this isnt Nam, there are rules."
Quick Tip by . July 20, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Definitely a 90's classic, The Dude reminds us to stay true to yourself and screw the world!
Quick Tip by . July 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
An American classic. I'd love to see a sequel. Donnie could come back in flashback.
About the reviewer
Todd Stockslager ()
Ranked #65
I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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About this movie


The Coen brothers have done it again. Mixing in Leninist philosophy, mistaken identity, crazy characters, a kidnapping plot, and a deep love of bowling, they have unleashed upon an unsuspecting world the many glories of THE BIG LEBOWSKI. Jeff Bridges plays Jeff Lebowski, known as the Dude, a laid-back, easygoing burnout who happens to have the same name as a millionaire whose wife owes a lot of dangerous people a whole bunch of money--resulting in the Dude having his rug soiled, sending him spiraling into the Los Angeles underworld.

The film is beautiful to look at, especially the scenes in the bowling alley, which feature a vast array of bizarre characters--including Steve Buscemi, John Turturro, Sam Elliott, and the movie-stealing, riotously funny John Goodman as the Dude's crazy best buddy. As usual in Coen brothers films (BARTON FINK, RAISING ARIZONA), the dialogue is hysterically warped; the plot is confusing, complicated, and kinetic; the soundtrack is virtually another character; and th...
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Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Genre: Comedy
Release Date: 6 March 1998 (USA)
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Runtime: 117 min
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Barton Fink

Coen Brother Classics


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