Monday, April 6, 2015

The Big Lebowski (1998)

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Writers:    Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast:         Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, John Turturro

'The Dude' Lebowski, get his rug soiled by couple of shakedown guys who mistakes him for a millionaire Lebowski. Seeking restitution for his ruined rug, which really tied the room together, Dude enlists his bowling buddies to help get it. Things escalates quickly as he is hired by the millionaire to execute a ransom pay-off involving the kidnapping of his trophy wife. Well this is a very complicated case guys, you know, a lotta ins, a lotta outs, a lotta what-have-yous. And, uh, a lotta strands to keep in my head, man. Lotta strands in old Duder's head.

Its been a while since I last watched it, at the least three years based on my previous post on the film, and I guess this is my fourth or fifth watch of this Coens masterpiece. I really didn't sense the time gap since most of the famous lines in it are referenced so frequently in places I visit on internet. If one asks you to name a favorite film that you can watch any number of times, most probably you will pick a comedy film. So for me those are Pulp Fiction and Big Lebowski and some other Malayalam comedy classics (Nadodikattu, Ramji Rao Speaking, In Harihar Nagar, Sandesham). Based on interviews that I have seen of actors talking about their work with Coens, they go into a film with a concrete script which doesn't undergo much/any change during filming. And Big Lebowski's script is one which is so brilliant that a plain reading of it will be hilarious in itself. This is true for all comedy classics like Seinfeld, This is Spinal Tap etc. The Dude says 'man' 147 times in the film and all of it were scripted. He is also in every scene of the movie, a film-noir convention, and you can really describe it as a film-noir genre bender. 

It is interesting to compare Big Lebwoski with the recent Paul Thomas Anderson film, Inherent Vice. Both of them are stoner films with complicated neo-noir plots. While in the former you can very well understand what happened even though that is not essentially the point of the film. In Inherent Vice, PT Anderson takes it to the extremes by making the plot impossible to follow and some have been put off by that. I consider it more as a failure in understanding what the film is about and Anderson himself might be partly to blame for making a really misleading trailer for it. Anyway, his films are meant to be watched multiple times to fully get them and since I was aware about the point I noted above going into it, I could really enjoy it the first time itself. A word of advise for those who are planning to watch it, the mood should be as if you're watching Big Lebwoski even though the humor is of a very different kind. It also aims to take you more into the mind of a stoner than Big Lebowski which is more about us making us want to lead Dude's lifestyle, without any care in the world.

Dude and Walter Sobchak are certainly among my all time favorite characters but the film is littered with other brilliant but brief characters. I really feel sorry for Donnie, a very against the type role for Buscemi, who is much abused by Walter and ends up dead after having an heart-attack. To make matter worse, he also ends up getting his ashes blown in the wrong direction after a very heart-felt but hilarious eulogy. This time round I spotted that it was David Thewlis who is playing Knox Harrington, the video artist at Maude's. One can talk endless about Dude, the other characters, lines, the Big Lebowski festival, Dudeism etc, but fuck it dude, lets go bowling...

Rating: 5/5