Friday, July 07, 2006

The Big Lebowski


Dir: Joel Coen

A bit of a lost Coen Brothers movie for me, I saw it in the theater and that was about it. But it has gained a cult following despite me, so it was high time to reintroduce myself to it.

The strength of Lebowski is in its collection of anti-heroes, Jeff Bridges and John Goodman. This may be the big man's comedic masterpiece, a well written character that is taken to the next level but his empassioned performance. The combination of paranoia, fool's confidence, intelligence and total ignorace is very fun to watch, and gives Goodman a great platform to show off his talents. Bridges is far more constrained, reduced to befuddlement at his predicament. He is stoic and selfish while the crazyness surrounds him. But "The Dude" does get the best catch phrases, a dynamic that contributes to the film's popularity more so than the story itself.

The weakness of Lebowski is in that story, an attempted deconstrcution of the kindapping mystery that I think trips over its own cleverness at times. In Raising Arizona, the humor was character based and the silly plot never got in the way. Here, the Coens put a lot of stock in twists and turns in the story, and that can be tricky if you don't pull it off prefectly. The Usual Suspects gets it; Hitchcock got it; Lebowski misses the mark.

The film has some very interesting characters who unfortunately get all mixed up in a passable but hardly transcendent storyline. This is like a high class SNL skit, some resonant phrases and crazy characters but not much else. That's entertaining, sure, and "The Marcus abides" may even make it into my lexicon. But this is not among the Coen Brothers' best.



Blogger Paul Johnson noted on 7/10/2006 04:34:00 PM that...


Dude, cmon! Its Lebowski, man. I mean the story just doesn't matter at all. To believe that the pratfalls and hijinx of the stoner noir intervenes to lessen the film is, I feel, kinda unfair.

I think what you're trying to say is that there is no there there. The plot exists for the funny characters to bounce around in. But I think the plot is totally and purely meaningless. Nothing has changed at the end of the movie, except that Donny is dead (and perhaps now actually in his element).

The plot is intensely silly. But necessary so that people would attend in the first place to speak truth to the power of the humor involved. The plot only exists nominally.

Everytime I see this movie (and I own it and have watched it many, many, many times) I cannot help but think of the many many movies set in LA that occur primarily at night. Even a movie like Heat which is intensely and wholly different from Lebowski evokes a similar feeling about the night. Its just that this cast of characters isn't into robbery, just existing.

That is what I think makes the film such a success- the plot is nothing, dude. "They're nihilists, man." I do think you are completely and totally right on to call it a deconstruction, but to then talk about why the plot fails rings hollow to me- of course the plot fails, plot has been deconstructed.

Anyway I prolly sound like a jerk off grad student with too much time on my hands. And i irrationally enjoy this film too much. Some of the lines are just too good.  

Anonymous Durkee noted on 7/16/2006 03:42:00 PM that... = link to an academic (whatever) paper about The Big Lebowski and Nietzsche. Also, PJ is a grad school jerk off. One day I hope to follow his path.  

Blogger paroske noted on 7/17/2006 07:10:00 PM that...

If the film is supposed to emobody nihilism (and I haven't read the paper yet), THEN the problem is it doesn't go far enough. There is a clear story arc and a resolution that is supposed to be internally consistent. You can't say that nothing has happened; we learned the outcome of a mystery. That the film plays around with a forumla of what this story usually looks like doesn't make it some Sartrean rumination on existence itself.

Of course, one could defend the movie on catch phrases and crazyness and Bob Dylan alone and I wouldn't put up too much of a fight.

I could be wrong on this; I need to think about it more. But deconstruction can't be conflated with sloppy. That is the impression I got.


Blogger ronvon2 noted on 7/25/2006 09:46:00 AM that...

That reminds me, I need to get a new rug.