A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 236 – The Big Lebowski

The Big Lebowski – October 22nd, 2010

I admit, I kind of don’t want to write this review. I’m tired and my head hurts and there’s a lot of yelling in this movie so that didn’t help the head. So I’m not in the mood to write a review at all, but I’m also not sure I’m up to reviewing this movie. I’m kind of cranky about it, to be honest. Because I don’t find it to be a flawlessly brilliant Coen Brothers masterpiece. I know it has a following. I seem to recall reading about a convention somewhere for people who dress up like characters from the movie and know it all by heart. So I know people love it. Enough people to get together for an annual event. That’s cool and all. But I’m not one of those people. When I want to put in a mystery/action/comedy full of quirky characters and quotable lines I’ll go for Buckaroo Banzai. And when I want a Coen Brothers movie I’ll go for Raising Arizona or O Brother, Where Art Thou? It just doesn’t strike enough of a chord with me to get me past the one thing that makes me cringe for a large portion of the movie: Walter.

I really really don’t like Walter. I’d have to say he makes this movie really unpleasant for me to watch at times. I find it hard to enjoy a lot of his scenes because, well, I’ve met guys like Walter. They are terrifying to be around. So yeah. I love Jeff Bridges. I love a lot of stuff in this movie. But I cannot stand Walter. He makes my fight-or-flight instinct kick in, and no non-horror movie should do that to me. He yells, he rants, he waves a fucking gun around and threatens people for supposed bowling infractions. He gets all riled up and pissed off and having worked retail and had guys get riled up and pissed off for incredibly minor things that are only problems because of something they did? I can’t really see him as a comedic figure. I don’t find him funny in the least. I find him cringe-inducing. When he starts yelling over The Dude, I want to leave the room. That’s no way to watch a movie.

It pisses me off, to be honest. Because Walter kind of sits at the root of most of the situation. The Dude gets mistaken for another guy with the same name (Jeffrey Lebowski) and some thugs piss on his rug and that’s just not cool. That much? Totally not Walter’s fault. Walter did not urinate on The Dude’s rug. He wouldn’t have done that. It really tied the room together and Walter knows that. But it’s Walter who gets The Dude all riled up about it and urges him to go find the other Jeffrey Lebowski. And when the other Lebowski’s trophy wife goes missing and he hires The Dude to drop off the ransom money to her supposed kidnappers, it’s Walter who comes along and fucks up the drop. Sure, he’s right about the kidnapping in the end, but The Dude wouldn’t even have gotten mixed up with the Big Lebowski and his wife, Bunny, or the pornographer and his thugs, or the Nihilists, if Walter wasn’t an angry jackass running his mouth off. He even pisses off the relatively calm Dude eventually. I can see how he’s supposed to be this over the top caricature and his out of control antics are supposed to be amusing in an astonished-at-him sort of way. I just can’t see him as caricature. Sorry. When you’ve encountered people like him in real life – multiple people – it ceases to be caricature and becomes reality.

Anyhow, if I could get past Walter, or if he didn’t show up nearly as much as he does, I think I’d really enjoy this movie. Which is what pisses me off about him. My reaction to him ends up overshadowing my reaction to everything else. Maybe he’s like cilantro. Lots of people love the stuff. But if there’s one leaf of it in something all I can taste is soap. So let’s get rid of the cilantro. Let’s just assume he plays a role in putting things in motion and otherwise roll along with the rest of the movie. And you know what? That’s actually pretty cool! It’s a mystery, really, with a kidnapping and family squabbles and two possible culprits and a dismembered toe in an envelope. It’s noir without the noir. All the plot, none of the ambiance. If you don’t really look at the plot itself you might miss it amongst all the White Russians and rug obsessions and pot smoking. But seriously. Look at the plot.

Wealthy Jeffrey Lebowski’s trophy wife, Bunny, has apparently been kidnapped. He hires our hero to drop off the money to the kidnappers and secure her safe return. The drop goes awry and soon our hero finds himself in trouble with Lebowski, the kidnappers, folks the wife owed money to, and then he meets Lebowski’s daughter. She’s sultry and mysterious and doesn’t get along with her father or the trophy wife. She wants the money back. But the money is missing. The kidnappers want the money. But the money is missing. The folks the wife owed money to? Want the money. But? The money? It is missing. And so The Dude, our hero, has to find out what happened to the money. And he never asked to get involved in all of this. It’s all because of a case of mistaken identity. That right there is a great little mystery setup. And then the hero is this aging hippie who’s happiest when he’s stoned, drinking a White Russian, or bowling. He peppers his speech with lots of filler, dudes and mans and fucks. He sprawls when he sits down. He’s not a private eye – in fact he has an encounter with one who thinks he is and disabuses him of that notion right quick – he just wanted his rug replaced.

The whole movie is this bizarre melding of genres, which the Coen Brothers seem to do rather well. Taking something classic and plunking it down in a time and place it never belonged before works rather well for them. They certainly seem to have had fun making this movie, as did Jeff Daniels, who does a fantastic job with The Dude. He’s utterly incomprehensible much of the time, and yet you always know what he means. I really like him, and I like a lot of the rest of the cast, and I like the mystery and I like the concept. I like the bowling and the bizarre dream sequences. I just don’t like Walter. It’s not that John Goodman does a bad job playing him. It’s that he does too dedicated a job. To the point where I fully believe him. I would just rather believe him a little less so I could enjoy the rest of the movie more.

October 22, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , ,


  1. Sort of like “North by Northwest” meets . . . . ?

    Comment by Doc Wheat | October 23, 2010 | Reply

    • I’d say surfer movies, except it’s all bowling. Maybe Woodstock.

      Comment by ajmovies | October 23, 2010 | Reply

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