Friday, 4 December 2009


I’m going to put it out there at the beginning: I’ve never been a big Coen Brothers fan. Maybe I came to them at the wrong time - I don’t think I really saw one of their films until my late, late teens, and I started with their later films and worked backwards, so maybe there is a narrative arc I have missed. Either way, the only film of theirs that I recall truly liking from start to finish was Fargo. No Country For Old Men I thought was good for the most part, but I came out of it feeling patronised by it - I felt that the film thought it was better than the audience, regardless of who they were. This is a problem I have felt with most of their films that I have seen - it's like, by the time the end has come around, the films have become tricky for the sake of being tricky just to prove to those watching that they are one step ahead, and to be damned with connection.

Having said that, The Big Lebowski is such a big cult film. Everyone (other than me, until a few days ago) has seen it. Everyone seems to love it. Except me.

I was hoping for something grab my funny areas like Fargo did. I was hoping to laugh. Actually, I think that’s the killer. I wanted to laugh, and I don’t think I really did at all. Maybe I watched it too late. Maybe this kind of stoner movie has now been done to death (I will recognise this as better than most other stoner movies I’ve seen, though I should also note that I have seen very few) and if I’d seen it a decade ago I would have a different appreciation for it. But really, I had no sympathy for the Dude. I just wanted to slap him in the face and tell him to pull himself together.

I’m getting ahead of myself. The Big Lebowski centres around a case of mistaken identity. Jeff Bridges plays Dude Lebowski, whose real name (though no one addresses him by it) is Jeffrey. There is another Jeffrey Lebowski (the ‘Big’ Lebowski of the title), an apparent millionaire businessman whose wife has gotten herself into a fairly significant debt. Thugs and fraud ensue, and the Dude gets mixed up in it in an attempt to receive a pay off.

The Dude doesn’t have a job. He just bowls, and drinks white russians, and smokes pot. He wants this as an easy pay day. And I just. Don’t. Get. How that is funny. He cocks up again and again, and it doesn’t strike me as funny. It seems a little pathetic to me. Sure, he was admirably portrayed by Bridges, but when you don’t have a great deal of sympathy for the character it’s similarly hard to respect the performance.

The bright spot for me was Julianne Moore’s role as The Big Lebowski’s estranged daughter Maude. As in Fargo, where my favourite was Frances McDormand’s character, the supporting female role does seem the most interesting. Yes, she is heavily caricatured, but she has the most hysterical mannerisms and lines. Moore plays her perfectly. I love Julianne Moore. And it’s nice to see her play comic - I don’t think she does it enough.

The big killer for me with this film was the fact that I didn’t think it was funny, and it needed to ride off its laughs (it is a comedy, after all), so that, for me, is a massive failure. I may be the only person in the word who doesn’t particularly like it, but then again I didn’t like No Country or O Brother, Where Art Thou? either, and most people seem to like them.

Look, I didn’t find the film terrible. I watched it all, and I never felt like killing myself to get it over with. I wanted more, but I did get enough from it to not want to slander it endlessly. I’d even watch it again, though mostly to make sure I’m not missing something. Maybe if I were drunk it would hit me a little more. One day, maybe, I’ll revisit. In the meantime, I’m going to lay on a lonely 2 stars.

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