Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh
chris_walsh

Fourth Big Lebowski thought of the week: My original review

My original Big Lebowski review, published March 31, 1998

(written after seeing the film in a mostly empty Richland, Wash. screening room:)

You know, this film should be seen twice before being reviewed – ’cause, like any other self-respecting Coen Brothers film, it leaves you going “now what the heck just happened?”

You see, The Big Lebowski is shot through a haze o’ pot smoke, the way a bowler/drug addict calling himself “The Dude” Lebowski (Jeff Bridges, a smart actor who’s great here as a stoner) sees his world. The plot makes little sense, events don’t flow, characters come and go without much obvious purpose (especially one sick puppy of a bowler played by John Turturro) – but despite all the bad road and heavy profanity leading up to the end, The Big Lebowski still has a happy ending. Well, maybe not happy, but The Dude has moved on from the freakish events we saw earlier. And one gag late in the show threw me into a full-force laughing fit; I was glad I didn’t have people sitting right next to me, or I’d’ve bumped into them repeatedly.

Here’s the story: It’s L.A., early 1991. The Dude is mistaken for a rich man – the Big Lebowski himself – and is roughed up by punks before they realize they’ve made a mistake. It turns out The Big Lebowski is in dire straits: his trophy wife, a porn film star, has been kidnapped, and he tells The Dude he needs someone to make the ransom drop – and that someone (ta daa!) is The Dude.

During The Dude’s mission, our hero – no, the guy who’s in front of the camera the most – stumbles onto a child molester, black-clad German nihilists (including Peter Stormare from Fargo and Armageddon), a 15-year-old alleged thief, an old man in an iron lung, a severed toe, a private detective, and the Big Lebowski’s artist daughter Maude (the gorgeous and stylized Julianne Moore), who’s interested in The Dude for her own purposes. The Dude’s bowling buds (friends, I mean friends!) John Goodman and a dead-and-dumb-looking Steve Buscemi – who’s always bumming bowling shirts off of others (each of his shirts has a different name on it) – are dragged along for the ride.

The movie doesn’t make sense, but it avoids making sense in a way that makes sense. (Did that make sense?) A lot of this film is an indulgence of this filmmaking brother team, and self-indulgence is not necessarily bad here. They can throw in anything – like The Dude thinking Saddam Hussein is handing him his bowling shoes in one insane dream sequence – and it doesn’t have to have meaning. And when the plot is solved, it’s pretty much by accident and still leaves a bunch of loose ends…but The Dude lives on.

This is not a great film, partly since it is so hard to make an Important Film about stupidity and vacuity – the same problem the otherwise good and entertaining To Die For ran into. But The Big Lebowski knows this, and just goes with its own flow, which is kind of refreshing.

And it gives people like me who’ve never even had a beer a vague sense of what it must be like to spend your life stoned. Cool.

***

Still never stoned (though I do allow myself to drink now),
chris_walsh
Tags: film reviews, flashbacks, midnight movies
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