The Big Lebowski (1998)


Written by Ethan and Joel; directed by Joel; produced by Ethan

Jeff Lebowski (aka The Dude, or His Dudeness, or Duder, or El Duderino if you’re not into that whole brevity thing) is mistaken for his millionaire namesake and gets dragged into a kidnapping plot…

Seen before? Yes, but not for years. It was the first Coen Brothers movie I saw at the cinema – a quick* flick through my old academic diaries tell me it was on 29 October 1998, in Stoke-on-Trent with Will Haywood and Stuart Oultram. (*Long, exhaustive, bordering on the obsessional.)

Best performance: Jeff Bridges as The Dude. It’s a fantastic creation, even if he’s possibly the least proactive lead in all of cinema. He gets pulled through the film by all the other characters – he just wants to placate people and pour himself a White Russian. Bridges plays him with charm, humour and hilarious bursts of anger.

Coen regulars (running total of appearances): John Goodman (4) and Steve Buscemi (5) play the Dude’s bowling buddies, Walter and Donnie. There are cameos from Jon Polito (4) as a private eye, John Turturro (3) as paedophile Jesus, and Peter Stormare (2) as a nihilist. It’s a first Coen movie for Jeff Bridges (1).

Best bit: The surreal, gleeful music video of a dream sequence – the Dude bowling, flirting with Julianne Moore and flying through women’s legs – which is scored by Kenny Rodgers’s Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was in).

Review: Being both a film geek and someone who was born in the late 70s, I guess I was presupposed to love 90s American cinema. To me, the movies of Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh, Robert Rodriguez, Kevin Smith, Bryan Singer and others (and Brit Danny Boyle) are all part of the same glorious, joyful, bold and distinctive period. Films were fun and full of character; they knew and played with conventions; they told oddball stories about interesting people. It’s part personal taste, part teenage nostalgia – and The Big Lebowski sits slap-bang in the middle of this phase. It’s effortlessly cool; has crisp, quotable dialogue and a great soundtrack; and is generally just enormous fun. Like most of the Coens’ movies, we get a reasonably standard setup, which then spins off into increasingly eccentric and downright bonkers areas. Two hours pass by so enjoyably that when it had finished I very nearly just put it on again.

Ten rugs that really tied the room together out of 10.

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