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The Big Lebowski – Movie Review

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The Big Lebowski – Movie Review

win tickets to a limited digital screening of The Big Lebowski

Rating: A+ (Excellent, easily one of the best movies I’ve seen)

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The Big Lebowski is the very definition of a cult film. This was a movie that, despite following Joel and Ethan Coen’s highly acclaimed Fargo, did not gather much attention on its initial release. Since then, it has becoming revered as a modern-day comedy classic. It is understandable why it has experienced such a growth, as Coen Brothers films are very rewarding on repeat viewings, The Big Lebowski being no exception. The first time I watched it, I found very amusing. However, it was not until my third viewing that it became one of my favourite Coen Brothers films. Like the rest of their work, it is a very unconventional tale revolving around a group of unintelligent folk who are spun into a ridiculous series of events. In this story, it all comes from a simple case of mistaken identity and a stolen rug that “really tied the room together.”

The Coen Brothers do not take long to establish this warped vision of Los Angeles, filled with bowlers, nihilists, surrealistic artists and a lazy, carefree man known simply as the Dude. The Dude is a unique character that does not fall into any sort of normal character type. While he does get tangled into a whole kidnapping/ransom plot, he would rather lie down on a rug and bowl. There’s an impressive art to how the Coens write the Dude and Jeff Bridges plays him magnificently. He is almost the sane person in the crazy ensemble the Coens have dreamt into this film’s existence. The beauty of The Big Lebowski is the Dude is never a character we laugh at, because we’re just as dumbfounded by the people he encounters as much as he is. Bridges brings so much personality to a character with such simple aspirations and the Coens write so many quotable and funny lines for him to say, it is hardly a surprise that there is a subculture of people who look to him as a role model (even though, by normal standards, he is anything but).

The intelligence of the screenplay extends to how the plot is weaved. A number of scenes that otherwise could have been cut in any other comedy fit right into this tightly structured work Ethan and Joel Coen have written. The careful pacing of their editing and direction is also key to the success of The Big Lebowski with every sequence being a mini-masterpiece of its own. Certainly one of the most memorable highlights is the Dude’s hallucinogenic dance number that would make Busby Berkeley blush. There is so much visual invention on the screen and the perfect summation for the wacky world showcased in The Big Lebowski. The use of profanity is handled excellently. The f-word is frequently sprinkled throughout the dialogue, especially by John Goodman’s Walter Sobchak. However, this is not for lack of better words and the Coens manage to lyrically weave them into the dialogue.

Goodman, in particular, brings so much pent-up anger into his Vietnam War veteran and humorously reacts to Steve Buscemi’s quiet nebbish of few allowed words. With the pedigree afforded from Fargo, the amount of talented actors the Coens were able to acquire for The Big Lebowski is quite a feat. Julianne Moore might have the oddest character of the bunch (and that’s saying a lot), whose matter-of-fact and non-joking delivery actually makes her dialogue funnier. Philip Seymour Hoffman, John Turturro and Peter Stormare are also unforgettable in their smaller roles.

The unconventionality of The Big Lebowski extends to the mystery plot, which rides along not through actual clue-hunting on the part of the Dude. Most of the predicaments just fall into the Dude’s lap, when he’s merely looking for a rug or a White Russian cocktail. Any time he or Walter get seriously involved, it merely makes matters worse. The Coens are experts at building extravagant and unbelievable stories out of basic plotlines and it is impressive they are able to juggle all of this into a coherent narrative. Yet, like its main character, the picture has a calm flow as we journey along with the personalities on-screen. The Big Lebowski almost takes an opposite approach to the Raymond Chandler stories that partly inspired it as rather than fast-paced, the characters talk in slow drones. It’s all key to how these characters do not entirely care about the case at hand. Lebowski’s missing trophy wife and the stolen rug are basic McGuffins to drive the plot forward, but it’s the adventures these characters go on and the humour forged from them that make this a classic mystery, albeit one where solving it is not necessarily the main focus.

The Big Lebowski is a comedy where the brilliance shines even more on each subsequent watch. The Coen Brothers are at the top of their game, showing their impressive ability at writing idiotic characters into wild situations. Through his devil-may-care nature, we have a memorable and multi-dimensional lead who merely wants to do the simple things in life. This is such a crazy story that goes through so many unexpected doors, but that’s why the Coens are such gifted filmmakers. Upon starting one of their films, one is not sure where they will take the audience. However, chances are good it will be an unforgettable and unique experience and The Big Lebowski is certainly a prime example of them in their finest form.

The Big Lebowski will play at Cineplex theatres on November 25 and November 27.

Review By: Stefan Ellison

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