There’s a new film genre that has appeared in the ’80s and that is quite popular lately. It’s a cross between wacked-out comedy and film noir. It’s usually about a kidnapping or a murder, and that always leads to a bundle of twists involving a gallery of weird characters who somehow connect with the hero, who’s most of the time a loser. The best example is probably “Pulp Fiction” (the Bruce Willis part). More recent outings have been less successful. “U Turn” and “A Life Less Ordinary” were quite enjoyable flicks, but they weren’t really satisfying. “The Big Lebowski” is as satisfying as it gets. It’s no surprise since it’s from the Coen brothers, who basically invented the genre with “Raising Arizona”.
“Hey, careful, man, there’s a beverage here!”
Jeffrey Lebowski is the Dude, an unemployed deadbeat loser who’s still trippin’ as if the ’60s had never ended. He’s magnificently played by Jeff Bridges, who really gives a kick ass performance. He spends all the film in shorts and stained shirts, drinking White Russians and smoking doobies. His passion is bowling, and he practices the “sport” with a bunch of unusual guys. You got Walter, a psychotic Nam vet (John Goodman, hilarious); Donnie, always out-of-the-blue (Steve Buscemi, real funny as always); and Jesus, an arrogant Latin pederast (John Turturro, probably the funniest of them all).
“No, Walter, I don’t think Larry was about to crack”
The Coen, as you should know, always come up with unbelievable visuals, whatever they’re shooting. I can think of plenty of memorable shots they did of unexceptional things like supermarket alleys (“Raising Arizona”), hotel hallways (“Barton Fink”) and snowy parking lots (“Fargo”). Here, they achieve to make riveting shots of bowling alleys! There’s one particular shot that took my breath away, when the camera is actually in a bowling ball that’s rolling up the alley! You liked the bowling comedy “Kingpin”? Jump on this one, it’s even better! And it’s not just about that, of course.
“You brought the fuckin’ Pomeranian bowling?”
“What do you mean, ‘brought it bowling’, Dude? I didn’t rent it shoes. I’m not buying it a fucking beer. He’s not taking a fucking turn, Dude.”
Didn’t I mention film noir previously? So the Dude gets beat up early on by goons who want him to pay his wife’s debts. Wife? It appears that there’s another Lebowski, but this one’s rich and married. The goons realize their mistake, but not before they piss on Dude’s favorite rug. He decides to go up to the “big Lebowski” so he can be compensated. But it won’t be that easy. Somehow the crippled millionaire ends up hiring the Dude to deliver a million dollar ransom to a nihilist German techno band (led by Peter Stormare) that kidnapped his wife (Tara Reid).
“You want a toe? I can get you a toe, believe me. There are ways, Dude. You don’t wanna know about it, believe me.”
The Dude will also meet with people from the porn industry, as well as a private dick (Jon Polito), a mysterious stranger (Sam Elliott), a young car thief, and also Maude, daughter of Lebowski. Played by the delightful Julianne Moore, she’s a feminist freak with issues of her own.
“Look, just stay away from my fucking lady friend.”
“Hey, I’m not messing with your special lady.”
“She’s not my special lady, she’s my fucking lady friend.”
The Coen have cooked up an highly entertaining story that mix up all these people in a series of unusual and hilarious situations. The script is filled with inventive twists and zesty dialogue. More than anything, the film reaffirms how the Coen brothers really love cinema. They put together dream sequences, musical numbers, scenes of ultraviolence, pompous speeches scored to opera… I loved everything, from the pointless narrator to the kitsch soundtrack. Definitively the coolest comedy in a long time.
“Do you see what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass!?!”