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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

The Big Lebowski (1998)



Reviews and Comments

The Big Lebowski, one of the Coen brothers' most lunatic films -- which says a lot -- is a difficult film to quantify. Admittedly, there are moments of utter hilarity; if you appreciate the Coen brothers' dark, punchline-less humor, you'll find this film very funny. Others will be left scratching their heads in wonder. The film is also a remarkably original portrait of life in the early 1990s, which, in light of the movie's off the wall weirdness, somehow rings true. The key line is in the opening narration: Jeff Lebowski, better known as "The Dude," is man noteworthy not because he's a hero but because he epitomizes his time. That he most certainly does, and I marveled at how well the Coen brothers understand the 1990s mindset.

I'm a particular Coen brothers fan, and I found many funny moments -- but not enough, and there wasn't much else I enjoyed. The pleasures of The Big Lebowski, unlike any of their previous efforts, are mostly vicarious. I can see many reasons why they should be proud of this film. But the accomplishment is too personal -- what, pray tell, is there for me to enjoy directly?

Other than the moments of black humor, not much. The film suffers, I think, because it is too weird. The weirdness in The Hudsucker Proxy and Barton Fink, for example, had purpose. The film also suffers because it doesn't have any questions or conclusions about what its keen perception brings to light. It observes much but says little. I'm inclined to give the Coen brothers the benefit of the doubt and suppose this was intentional -- it would mesh well with the themes it presents -- but intentional or not, this made the film unsatisfying for me.

I should also note the relentless profanity in this movie. I see its artistic purpose -- it's all part of the culture the Coen brothers recreate and ridicule. But without more purpose to the film's agenda, it didn't justify this enough for me to want to sit through it again.