The Big Lebowski

The Big Lebowski

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Nobody plays lazy like Jeff Bridges. You could say he was born to it. Or rather, he's such a good actor he makes it look as natural as an unmade bed.

Bridges is The Dude. He lives in Los Angeles, in the uncool area, where there aren't any black guys, only semi-deranged Vietnam vets, like his bowling buddy, Walter Sobchak (John Goodman).

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Bowling is the thing, man. That and soaking in a scummy bath, with a roach going, candles by the taps and maybe whale song on the headphones. This time, whenever the hell it was, at the beginning of the story, a pair of raffish street thugs break in, stuff his head down the can and demand money - their money, his money, Lebowski's money. The tall Chinese one pees on his carpet. Great!

The Dude's real name, if anything's real in Dudesville, is Jeff Lebowski. Not that he answers to it. "The Dude," he keeps mumbling to people. "I'm The Dude." Being less off the case than perception implies, he reckons these trash scum vermin have mistaken his identity. Somewhere in the neighbourhood there must be another Lebowski. A rich one. He wanders off and finds himself in a Pasadena palace, where he explains: these guys peed on my carpet, because they thought it was your carpet and now I want a replacement, from you. The Big Lebowski tells him to close the door on his way out.

Being a Coen Bros prod, this is only the intro to what will become a hilarious, anarchic runaround, involving nihilist kidnappers, a trophy wife with a low boredom threshold, a naked artist who flings paint from a flying trapese and a million bucks in a stolen car. Also, it's about The Dude, Walter and Donny (Steve Buscemi) at the bowling alley.

The plot twists are too inventive to hang onto with any degree of safety. Life has become an eccentric extension of the bizarre and yet remains perfectly normal. Nothing phases The Dude, except when Walter takes matters into his own hands, resulting in nervousness, mutilation and damage.

If Alice missed the turning to Wonderland, she might have landed up here and found things pretty much as she expected. Bridges is a treat, shuffling through the debris in flip flops and surfer shorts. Walter is a man waiting to win a war that hasn't been declared. Goodman lights his touch paper and advances. Julianne Moore plays the artist with an English accent, as if avant-garde is a brand name for erotic underwear. The script has lines that leap out and choke you, they're so funny, and the actors respond with exactly the right tone of intensity and bewilderment. Life, as the Coens know from experience, is neither what it seems, nor what you expect.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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The Big Lebowski packshot
After someone puts the pee into rug, its owner goes in search of recompense from the man who shares his name.
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Director: Joel Coen

Writer: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Starring: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, David Huddleston, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tara Reid, Philip Moon, Mark Pellegrino, Peter Stormare

Year: 1997

Runtime: 113 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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