It has been 20 years since the original release of The Big Lebowski, a movie I still consider to be the Coen brothers’ best work, or at least, the one I have enjoyed the most. It is full to the brim with amazing actors playing characters that live long in the memory, manages to balance the humour and mystery of the movie through and contains some of the most quotable lines in cinema history.
As part of the 20th anniversary celebrations for the film, it is returning to cinemas this week, so now is a perfect time for a revisit.
• Director: Joel Coen
• Exhibition: 2D
• Rating: 18
• Run Time: 113 mins
If you have not seen The Big Lebowski, then you have not been introduced to Jeffrey “the Dude” Lebowski, played by Jeff Bridges, as only he can. He is not “Mr. Lebowski.” You can also call him His Dudeness, or Duder, or El Duderino, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing. By the way, I will now promise to not just litter this review with quotes as we’ll be here all day.
The Dude is a former 60s activist who is now quite content just being passionate about one thing – bowling. He is perpetually at ease, wearing a dressing gown over pyjamas, sunglasses and flip-flops. His bowling teammates consist of other slackers, like the belligerent war veteran Walter (John Goodman) and the easy-going Donny (Steve Buscemi), and they are currently in an on-going rivalry with fellow bowler Jesus (John Turturro). The Dude’s life is pretty sweet, at least in his eyes, until one day, a group of thugs beat him up, mistaking him for a wealthy man with the same name whose trophy wife owes them money.
Feeling that he is due some compensation for this, The Dude visits the other Lebowski (David Huddleston) whose secretary (Philip Seymour Hoffman) suggests the Dude becomes a bagman to deliver the ransom money for the now kidnapped Bunny Lebowski (Tara Reid). From here, the movie goes from one crazy situation to another, with the Dude largely along as a passenger, rather than a driver.
As you might guess, the story gets more and more convoluted as more and more parties enter the fray. The Coens manage to keep all of these threads going and tie them together cohesively by the end. With each new character joining, more quotes embed themselves in your brain as each actor takes their role and swings for the fences.
It is also important to give Roger Deakins plaudits for his camera work here. Even the relatively benign moments of bowling are given time so that you appreciate the game as much as the Dude and his friends do. The city of Los Angeles itself is given just as much time and attention from the camera too so the sense of time and place comes across clearly. This is a movie of its time and yet it’s timeless.
The Big Lebowski is a fantastic movie, to put it simply. From the opening to the closing, each book-ended by the outstanding voice of Sam Elliott, you are carried along, much like the Dude, as the story unravels. It is a masterpiece – yeah, well, you know, that’s just like, uh, my opinion, man.