I don’t know what to recommend you spend for this movie. As a Coen brothers fan, I want all Coen movies to be seen by everyone. As a movie goer struggling to write reviews that will touch the people in the heartland, my automatic response is that some people just won’t like it, because they will be distracted by the things I found wrong with it, but not notice all the things that are so right with it. If you have never seen a Coen brothers movie before, do not start with this one. As a Coen brothers fan, I was disappointed – but only because their movies like Fargo and Hudsucker Proxy and Raising Arizona are such delicious treasures that an “average” one like this is a let down, but it is not by any means, a bad film. I must stress that. Two of the people I saw it with found it to be sublime and perfect. I was entertained and amused, but…well, you’ll see.
I missed writing down the name of the music archivist during the opening credits and never saw it again – but he did some amazing work. The soundtrack is really interesting and special and sold out all over town! Roger Deakins, the god among cinematographers who made The Shawshank Redemption so beautiful, is not doing anything particularly magical ALL the time, but there are some seriously cool shots.
The Big L is populated with the Working Title Films stable of actors, all good, all doing something different, and all doing something great. John Goodman is so good at being the abrasive idiot of a VietNam vet that he is, he transcends just annoying his fellow characters and starts to annoy you. But you have to forgive him because he’s great! Jeff Bridges is new to the fold, and here he is The Dude. He’s the perfect LA stoner adult who just can’t be bothered with the crazy wacky world around him. Accidentally, he is swept into the world of a man with the same name as himself (Jeff Lebowski) and we are swept along as well.
The look is sort of signature Coen- but I found it unpalatably Hollywood. Maybe because it was shot in LA, they wanted to make it flat and fake. A friend suggested the movie is in Dude-O-Vision – we see the action in the film as he does. The Dude is inundated with interesting people – the film is chock full of great characters that never get borne out – but out of sight, out of mind. Strange recurring themes like Chinamen and the randomness that plagues all real people, and the bizarrities of the truly stupid people of the world are explored lovingly. There is a lot to like and enjoy about this film. John Turturro plays a creepy bowler named Jesus (not Hay-soos, but Jee-zus) and he is so showcased and so unused. Very frustrating. Julianne Moore’s vaginal art world woman was interesting if perhaps not too much so. The Nihilists, chock full of rock and roll cameos, could have been really interesting but instead they were just…left overs.
The part where I come up with “I don’t know” is where, when the movie is over (and I had to be told it’s over in an inconsistently trite manner), I felt empty, unsatisfied, unresolved…not that I have to have pure resolution, but I felt like I had eaten a great meal and then thrown it up. It was disheartening. Perhaps, along with my friends theory of Dude-O-Vision, that habitual stoners feel like that at the end of the day as well – vaguely unsettled. They had a good day, sure, it was a cool groove, man, but what, now it’s over? What happened?
MPAA Rating R -strong language, drugs, sexuality, brief violence.
Release date 3/6/98
Time in minutes 117
Director Joel & Ethan Coen
Studio PolyGram Films