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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 . January 10, 2011
**** out of ****      Is it fair to call a film "great" purely based on directorial perfection? Is it really right to consider a cult film a "classic"? I questioned each and every one of these things while watching Joel and Ethan Coen's massive cult masterpiece "The Big Lebowski", and when the credits rolled, the brothers had answered all of my questions. But it took more than one sit-down to realize just why people so closely follow The Dude's …
review by . March 15, 2011
Something about The Big Lebowski just seems eerily perfect. I love the Coens filmography I have seen, and I think that The Big Lebowski is definitely their best work thus far. I haven't seen Fargo yet though, so I could very well change my opinion with a viewing of it though. The Big Lebowski is easily one of the best film-noir comedies ever made and one of the greatest comedy of all time. It may not be perfect, but it balances a great story, a great dream sequence, readily quotable lines, …
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 . October 07, 2010
posted in Cult Cinema
I just don't understand why anyone ever laughs at this. People whose opinions I trust all call me an idiot, but ... you can't laugh at what ain't funny.
review by . May 11, 2010
   Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) is an unemployed slacker whose only interest is bowling with his moronic friends (John Goodman and Steve Buscemi).  He becomes involved in a kidnapping case when he is mistaken for a millionaire also named Lebowski.  Mayhem ensues. I had heard for years that this was a Great Movie, a piece of Film Art from the Coen Brothers.  So much for my curiosity.  If you like your movies PG like I do, this is a movie to avoid …
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
About the reviewer
Todd Stockslager ()
Ranked #36
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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