Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Big Lebowski, A Review

Honestly, this?

This is the huge pop cultural touchstone of the last decade and a half?


I mean, it's a clever inversion of Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep, and I totally made that call on my own recognizance. Chaos explodes all around The Dude, and he just keeps chugging along. He does get entirely freaked out, he gets panicky, he gets overwhelmed, but he keeps going. Even with a marmot in his bathtub.

Sure, it's clever, it's got some odd dream sequences and stuff, and Julianne Moore is a sport, but why this one? I can't tell you.

The plot is straight out of a number of Hitchcock films and parodies. The Dude, Jeff Lebowski, gets attacked in his home by a couple of thugs who are looking for some money and pee on his rug as a message. The Dude is bummed, because "that rug really tied the room together." He decides to call on the other Jeff Lebowski--the Big Lebowski--a crippled millionaire with a trophy wife and an unctious personal assistant played by Philip Seymour Hoffman (who is brilliant). Since the thugs were looking for payment owed by this Lebowski's trophy wife, the Dude figures he should replace the rug.

I get it--it's a karmic debt that balances the universe.

But there are wheels within wheels, and soon the Big Lebowski's trophy wife has been kidnapped, and he decides to hire the Dude to carry the ransom, in case he can identify the criminals as the ones who attacked him earlier. But Dude's bowling pal Walter (John Goodman) wants to keep the ransom themselves and prepares a dummy package full of his own (dirty) underwear.

People start coming after the Dude, looking for the money. He gets beaten up, drugged, seduced, beaten up again, and a marmot gets dropped into his bath. He drinks a lot of White Russians--which he calls "Caucasians" and he wanders around in pajama pants and jelly sandals. In the end, there was never any money because even the Big Lebowski was working a con. Dude ends up back at the bowling alley, and Sam Elliot delivers a folksy closing monolog which is the biggest tonal misstep of the whole movie. Should have been cut.

But--it was fine. The Cohens made an odd little movie with a lot of name stars and a generally obnoxious attitude toward women. The plot is convoluted and there's a lot of damage inflicted on a couple of cars. Overall, I didn't hate it, but it's no Raising Arizona. Not even an Oh Brother Where Art Thou which I liked much better.

1 comment:

Hobart McGhinnis said...

This is going to sound sexist, but I think it's a guy thing. My wife can't stand the movie either. I can't explain why I like it so much, but I can rewatch it for the zillion time and still enjoy it. The lebowski fests around the globe are a testament to the film's weird appeal and staying power.