Sunday, 10 July 2011

As I mentioned in my previous post, I recently acquired, at excellent value, a box set of seven Coen brothers films. Perhaps I should be ashamed to admit that I hadn't actually seen five of these. I do, however, very much like the Coens' distinct style and these five were on (or have retrospectively been added to) my "films to watch" list. The first I watched was The Big Lebowski.

In this classic Coen comedy with a considerable cult following, Jeff Bridges plays Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski, an umemployed slacker who spends his spare time doing the usual - bowling, driving around, the occasional acid flashback. El Duderino (if you're not into the whole brevity thing), initially mistaken for a millionaire who shares his name and angered when mysterious thugs urinate on his favourite rug, is drawn into a Chandler-esque mystery when "The Big Lebowski" employs him to courier the money for his kidnapped wife's ransom.

Placing this slacker character into the detective role for such a plot structure, with His Dudeness solving the mystery though rarely putting in any effort, lends the film a wonderfully unique sense of humour with a plethora of quotable lines (hey, half of this review is made up of quotes), mixed with a light-hearted criticism of American values. This is exemplified by the supporting characters, most notably John Goodman's Walter, a Vietnam vet who specialises in reminding people that he is a Vietnam vet. John Goodman has the perfect face for playing an aggressive, racist Vietnam vet, don't you think? It's the large squareness.It's evident that the Coens wrote all the roles well with the particular actors in mind, even for seemingly minor characters: Steve Buscemi's dim Donny, John Turturros's sex offender bowling supremo Jesus and Phillip Seymour Hoffman's sycophantic butler Brandt are all iconic and memorable. As for Sam Elliott's stranger - his voice adds a unique cool to the narration. Whoever he is.

With the Coen brothers' typical combination of rich visuals with wry, ironic humour, The Big Lebowski is a cool and fun yet surprisingly meaningful comedy. I could write many pages about how it portrays the idea of what it means to be a hero and criticises American society.

Fuck it, let's go bowling.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting Kieron! Great observation. I am a visual artist very much interested in film analysis, especially visual analysis and I think you do have a point that I have never particularly paid attention to. thanks for your intelligent input on this masterpiece.