Volume 95, Issue 80

Wednesday, March 6, 2002
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Amanda Marshall's got a story for you

Enemy Women: a strong debut for Jiles

You Are Home successfully alienates readers

Outside the Box

Dreams? More like nightmares

Outside the Box

The Big Lebowski
Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, Sam Elliot
Directed By: Joel Coen

By Mark Polishuk
Gazette Staff

What would you do if two thugs mistook you for a millionaire, broke into your home, stuck your head in a toilet and pissed on the Oriental rug in your living room?

If you're Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski (Jeff Bridges), the natural thing to do is find the other Lebowski that the thugs were looking for and ask that he buy you a new carpet.

After all, that rug "really tied the room together."

The Big Lebowski was the Coen brothers' first movie following their 1996 Oscar-winning classic Fargo. As a result, in the eyes of some critics, Lebowski suffered by comparison.

The film follows the exploits of "The Dude," a middle-aged slacker whose life consists of bowling, listening to Creedence Clearwater Revival and getting high.

After his first encounter with the millionaire Lebowski (David Huddleston) following the apparent kidnapping of Mr. Lebowski's young trophy wife Bunny (Tara Reid), "The Dude" is hired to deliver the ransom.

Thanks to the intervention of "The Dude's" borderline psychotic friend Walter (John Goodman), however, the drop-off goes awry. Before long, "The Dude" is acting as an unwilling detective for Lebowski's daughter Maude (Julianne Moore), who suspects her father is up to no good.

The genius of Lebowski is found in its script, written by the Coens as both a send-up and an homage to the classical film noir/detective genre.

At first glance, the plot seems to be little more than a confusing excuse for the Coens to throw in all kinds of random humour. Every little bit of information, however, is included for a reason. A throwaway piece of dialogue in one scene often leads to a key plot point or punchline (or both) later on. This layering of humour makes Lebowski an eternally fresh movie, as one discovers new jokes with each viewing.

The clever dialogue is enhanced by the films' performances – the cast create some of the most memorable characters in recent film history. Of particular note is John Goodman as Walter Sobchek, the bi-polar war veteran who can turn any subject into a diatribe about Vietnam.

He alternates between calm "logic" and hilarious outbursts of rage. The supporting players are also tremendous. It is another sign of the film's comic depth – even the minor characters are given funny quirks to their personality.

At the centre of it all is "The Dude," who (like his precious Oriental rug) ends up tying everything together. "The Dude" has a certain amount of intelligence, but is also, to quote the narrator, humourously described as "the laziest man in Los Angeles county, which puts him high in the running for laziest worldwide." Still, it is perhaps the finest performance of Jeff Bridges' career.

The Big Lebowski is one of those classic comedies that leaves you quoting lines with your friends long after the film is over. There is probably also a great drinking game to be created from this movie – if you take a shot whenever a character says either 'fuck,' 'money' or (most of all) 'dude,' you'll end up as elegantly wasted as "The Dude" himself.

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Copyright The Gazette 2002