Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Big Lebowski (1998)

By Eric Jessen 8/28/09

The Big Lebowski is a hilariously entertaining film. F-bombs and pot-belly, shaggy-dog laziness only add to its charm. Joel and Ethan Cohen approach a film about a group of slouches and bums with a joyous twinkle in their eye. They pepper the dialogue with everyman cursing. They run the movie to a first class mixed tape. And they also show off a taste for LA flashy style. It's enthusiastic and playful. We welcome The Big Lebowski as a sort of camp fire tale, told by baritone old west Sam Elliot, about a man we all know: “The Dude.” He straddles a dangerous line of unemployed, on and off the streets and indifferent. But “The Dude” never gets too down, he somehow stays afloat. And though we may berate him for not being motivated (which makes us feel superior), part of us wish we were a dude. We wish we had carefree nonchalant swagger and stress-free life of nothing but bowling and avoiding paying rent. And The Big Lebowski is “The Dude's” wild ride. Our dude, Jeffrey Lebowski (Jeff Bridges), sets down the beer in one hand and pulls his fingers out of the bowling ball in the other hand. He tilts down the shades covering his eyes, flicks back his overgrown bangs, scratches his scruffy beard and side burns. He picks himself up off his minor weed high and is ready to roll.
In The Big Lebowski our dude finds himself in a sticky situation. One night after shopping for some milk at Ralph's, “The Dude” comes home and is beat up by two thugs who mistake him for another Lebowski (David Huddleston) who owes them money. During the break-in one of the two thugs urinates on his favorite carpet (which he says “really tied the room together”). So our dude decides to for once go against his pacifist instincts and confront the other Lebowski who is apparently rich and ask him to replace his carpet. “The Dude” saunters into the other Lebowski's mansion but his pleas for a new carpet are to no avail. So, of course, what does “The Dude” do? Well, he steals a carpet, that's what. Now he has a beautiful Persian rug as the centerpiece of his room. Not long after, the other Lebowski calls “The Dude” back to his home with an urgent request. He tells “The Dude” that his trophy wife Bunny a ditsy teen played by Tara Reid, has been kidnapped. And if “The Dude” will be the courier for a 1 million dollar payoff, he'll get paid $20,000. When “The Dude” tells this to his bowling buddy Walter (John Goodman), a high-strung Vietnam Vet who pulls his gun on people who violate bowling rules, Walter takes control and concocts a ridiculous plan for the drop off. He packs an Uzi into a paper bag and his dirty undies into a suitcase that will serve as a decoy for the kidnappers, so Walter and Lebowski can grab Bunny and keep the money.
Over the course of his wild ride, “The Dude” finds himself at a gated community police station, watching Walter demolishing a convertible to intimidate a teenager, in a bowling-ball-vs-sword fight with a German leather-pants band, and inadvertently drinking an acid, roofie spiked “White Russian” at a porn Tzar's house. He is thrown around like a ping-pong ball to every corner of LA, to every weird person in town. And it is fun to watch him sigh, irritated that all these shenanigans interrupt his lounging routine. He sits at the bar and orders his favorite drink. He laments to the bartender about a rough day. But he still keeps a small smirk on his face. He gets up, whips back his hair, and slowly and smoothly puts on his shades remembering, I shouldn't be whining, I'm a dude.

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