Thursday, 31 March 2011
DVD: 10 DAYS OF JOEL & ETHAN COHEN: DAY 5 - THE BIG LEBOWSKI (1998)
For some reason this reminded me of Robert Altman's remake of The Long Goodbye which, as it turns, isn't as surprising as you might think. The Coens, in the making of on the DVD, state that they took the structure from the noirs of the period and writers like Raymond Chandler. In the Altman movie, Marlow the detective is a laid-back stoner just like The Dude (Jeff Bridges) here. Plus the Coens movie is also a kind of a noirish mystery as well as being a comedy. And, I've just learned after completing the first draft of this review, Joel Coen cites it as an influence, so score one for me there, dudes! (Blows whistle. Pats self on back.)
When the Dude's apartment is broken into, his head thrust down the toilet and his rug pissed on because the wife of a man with the same name owes bad people some money and they somehow confuse the Dude with a rich millionaire, he goes to the rich millionaire and asks him to replace his ruined rug. This seems a reasonable request but the rich, and wheelchair bound, millionaire (the Big Lebowski of the title) sends him away with a flea in his ear. So on the way out, the Dude informs a flunky that his boss said he could take any rug he liked. Also on the way out he sees the millionaire's very young slut, sorry, wife who offers to perform oral sex on him for a thousand bucks. Next thing we know, she's been kidnapped the millionaire wants the Dude to deliver the ransom. And that is when things get complicated.
It doesn't help that the Dude's best friend (John Goodman) an ex-VietNam vet (and don't we know it) who overreacts to anything including pulling out a gun when a guy insists his score was valid when his foot went a couple of inches over the line in a match at a bowling alley. He also has another bowling friend whose name appears to be Shut The Fuck Up Donnie (Steve Buscemi) as Goodman never calls him anything else.
And I'll stop there because I went into detail about the story I'd be on the for next half hour. Suffice to say, the delivery of the ransom goes drastically wrong thanks to Goodman, the Dude's car goes progressively from dented to trashed, the Dude himself is beaten up several times, he has a close encounter with the millionaire's eccentric artist daughter (Julianne Moore) who is about 15 years older than her stepmother, and so on. It's all very lively and a lot of fun as the laid-back Dude gets more and more agitated and his insensitive intemperate buddy lets it all wash over him, uncaring as to any threats to the missing slut, sorry, wife.
As ever, lots of good character actors in minor eccentric supporting and cameo roles (John Turturro, David Thewlis, Ben Gazzara, Peter Stormare, to name but a few). The odd beginning featuring a tumbleweed rolling across a western prairie (to the appropriate song Tumbling Tumbleweeds) an on into Los Angelese as the gravelly voice of the narrator (Sam Elliott) introduces the Dude and later turns up in the middle wearing western clothing to meet him, and to narrate the end of the film. Plus good use of incidental music.
What's it all mean? Buggered if I know, but I did have a good time watching it.
The film was generally liked by the critics even if they weren't always sure why. Basically the Coens create their own version of America in their movies and you either like it or you don't. The Big Lebowksi, thanks to Bridges performance as The Dude has become a cult and the Dude a cult icon.