The Big Lebowski (Joel & Ethan Coen, 1998)
"Dude" Lebowski, mistaken for a millionaire Lebowski, seeks restitution for his ruined rug and enlists his bowling buddies to help get it.
How a film goes to a cult status in almost fifteen years? First throw one of the most beloved duo of bros filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen and let them remake a Howard Hawks classic film starring Humphrey Bogart and you’ll have this one of a kind pathetic losers bowling low class buddies portrayed by some of the best actors out there. The Hawks picture we’re talking about is The Big Sleep and I won’t go all over it because John LaRue of The Droid You’re Looking For has written a very good piece on the similarities between both films.
The story of the wrong man has been done hundreds of times and the formula is more or less a canvas for Film Noir. Here the formula is applied to a low life unemployed bowling player called Jeffrey Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) but everyone calls him The Dude. He gets caught in a story of kidnapping, ransom with a similarly named millionaire (David Huddleston), involving his bowling partners Walter (John Goodman) and Donnie (Steve Buscemi), Maude the daughter of the millionaire (Julianne Moore), and a panel of colourful characters portrayed by Tara Reid, John Turturro, Peter Stormare, and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Every line of this movie has probably been quoted by someone dozens of times! While rewatching it this reviewer literally rediscovered one of the greatest comedies of all time. The strong plot based on a William Faulkner screenplay mixed with the Coens’ quirky visions of American irony and satire gives to this story a twist unexpected and lots of laughs.
It’s also all about the mastered mise en scène and the superb cinematography by long time collaborator Roger Deakins that makes this surprising comedy work. It elevates the brownish and beige color palette and puts a twist that gets your eye wanting more of this story. From the 1980’s sets to the sadly ugly costumes the production is perfect and it brings us into the low life Hollywood of The Dude; this White Russian drinker, amateur league bowling player, unemployed but still sympathetic loser who gets wrapped into a crazy story without really seizing what the heck is happening to him and his two acolytes.
Another aspect of this film is the amazing amount of film references used by the Coen Brothers. For example, when The Dude holds Bunny feet it is a direct reference to Stanley Kubrick's Lolita. There are also lots of Film Noir references that demonstrates the knowledge of the Coens when it comes to films. My favorite one is the Akira Kurosawa's High and Low, one of my favorite Kurosawa films. A cinephile's delight.
This is definitely the kind of film I would yearly revisit and learn every line and quote it endlessly among friends and family just like Christmas Vacation. The Coen brothers are in my own taste a hit or miss case when it comes to the quality of their films and in this case it is a sure hit, it’s a home run. I highly recommend their twisted comedy of The Big Lebowski.