Dave Finally Watches: The Big Lebowski (1998)

Why had I not seen The Big Lebowski before now? It’s been one of those movies that everyone assumes everyone else has seen and loves. I’ve liked most of the Coen brothers movies I’ve seen and outright love many of them. There are a few that didn’t hit with me, most notably The Hudsucker Proxy and Burn After Reading, but in general I like what they do. I didn’t really know what it was about, other than something about bowling. I guess that whatever led to me initially not seeing it is lost to time, but my continued not seeing of it was largely because, well, it seemed like there was no point in doing so. I figured it was some kind of stoner comedy since it’s the second-most featured item on the kind of Tumblrs where the first-most featured item is weed. I don’t know. It hadn’t happened for me, so I figured there wasn’t much reason to make it happen. Nevertheless, when I began the Movies to Watch Project it was a perfect candidate for inclusion.

I was genuinely surprised by it. The Dude likes him a joint or two, but it wasn’t particularly stoner-iffic. I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be a kind of noir descent into the depravities of the upper class that it turned out to be. I especially like the moment when Da Fino wanders in and assumes Lebowski is a private detective because, in such a story, what else would he be? The story behind this script could have easily been done dark and serious instead of comedy (for, as is always the case with their movies, varying definitions of the word “comedy”.)

The Coens assembled a phenomenal cast here, and get the most out of them. Everyone does a fantastic job with their particular slice of the absurd hijinks. To compare John Turturro’s Jesus Quintana with his Pete Hogwallop shows what an incredible asset he is to the directors who have him in their lineup. Hell, Tara Reid sells her two minutes as Bunny Lebowski (which the Coens know wisely not to extend to three). The center is, of course, Jeff Bridges, who plays The Dude so completely that I assume he wore his own clothes for the part. Even when the situations are a little too off-the-wall the characters all commit to everything so well that it boosts those moments anyway.

The Big Lebowski was a delight, and I’m glad to have finally seen it. In addition to finally upping my Coen brothers game, I can now wear the “Air Dude” shirt that Stewart sent me without being a poseur.

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