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  • Author Joe Cox
  • Published December 23, 2013

Why I love… The Big Lebowski

In another life, the editor of whathifi.com Joe Cox, would be a little more lazy and badly behaved. As it is, he has to watch from a distance…


In another life, the editor of whathifi.com Joe Cox, would be a little more lazy and badly behaved. As it is, he has to watch from a distance. That’s why The Big Lebowski is his Favourite Film…
A lousy bum with unkempt hair who spends all day in a bath robe sipping White Russians, wearing sunglasses and bowling: if that doesn’t sound like an aspirational character, then I don’t know what does.
Sure, saving the world from a terrorist attack, getting one over the man, winning the girl or simply running a multi-national crime organisation all hold plenty of appeal when you’re an impressionable teenager, but if I could swap places with any film hero, and a hero he surely is, it would be The Dude in The Big Lebowski.
Being a typical movie hero sounds too much like hard work, not to mention putting yourself in danger for the good of your fellow man. That’s just not my style. Being America’s Most Wanted sounded pretty cool too but I twigged that having a police chopper above my house on a Sunday afternoon would put a crimp in my day.
No. I’ll take being the coolest slacker in Los Angeles, please.
The genius of the untidy
The Big Lebowski is a rambling mess of a film with a plot that’s not so much surreal as barking mad. And fortunately largely irrelevant. A Coen Brothers classic, it’s all about killer lines, genius cameos and brilliant set-pieces.
They’re tied together loosely by a story built around a case of mistaken identity but it’s best to sit-back and simply enjoy the ride (with a White Russian in hand). As The Dude himself puts it, when asked what he does with his time: “I bowl. Drive around. The occasional acid flashback.” And that’s pretty much the film.
The Big Leboswki is textbook Coen Brothers and boy do they have a good textbook. It’s full of classic, endlessly-quotable lines – “That rug really tied the room together” – amazing cameo characters – Jesus Quintana – and a brilliant lead character who bowls (literally and figuratively) through a supremely surreal series of scenes, under the influence of alcohol (oh and that acid).
When was the last time you saw a film that had German nihilists, toilet dunkings, a nine-toed woman, vaginal drawings, a pederast, a urine-soaked rug, half the characters in pyjamas and robes… and bowling? Exactly.
A happy family
The Coen Brothers draw from their familiar roster of talent. Steve Buscemi is uniformly brilliant as the perpetually confused Donny, butt of all jokes and on the receiving end of many of the film’s best lines.
Many of those lines are delivered by John Goodman, another Coen Brothers regular, who plays the trigger-happy Walter Sobchak, Vietnam veteran and bowling authoritatrian. Julianne Moore, John Turturro and Philip Seymour Hoffman are all excellent, too. But it’s Jeff Bridges, as Jeffrey Lebowski, who (erm) ties the film together.
It’s a film that rewards repeat viewing, even requires it; it received mixed reviews on release but has since gained cult-classic status. It’s a horrible cliché but you really are likely to spot something new, and invariably funny, with every watch, or maybe just decide you have a new favourite cameo character. Maybe Flea from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, for example?
Sound and vision
The film also has a brilliant soundtrack, a Coen Brothers’ signature, which combines an original score with tracks from a diverse range. It’s a mish-mash of styles and sounds and it just works – the music defining each character and scene. It made me think about the effect of a good soundtrack – and better appreciate soundtracks in everything from classic Hitchcock and Kubrick films to the brilliant scores for Bladerunner and Tron.
Not everyone will get Lebowski – but if you do, you’ll love it. If all-out action sounds too much like hard work and your sense of humour is happy to be led a bowling-ball throw off the beaten path, The Dude is the man for you.
The opening lines: “Sometimes, there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that’s the Dude, in Los Angeles. And even if he’s a lazy man – and the Dude was most certainly that. Quite possibly the laziest in Los Angeles County, which would place him high in the runnin’ for laziest worldwide. But sometimes there’s a man, sometimes, there’s a man. Aw. I lost my train of thought here. But… aw, hell. I’ve done introduced him enough.”
And to that, I raise my White Russian.

Joe Cox is editor of whathifi.com
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