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Big Lebowski, The (1998, Jeff Bridges, John Goodman)



Jeff ‘The Dude’ Lebowski (Jeff Bridges), an LA bum who lives for bowling, knows it’s going to be a bad day when two hoods break in, demanding money owed by his wife (‘Does this place look like I’m fucking married? The toilet seat’s up, man!’), rough him up and piss on his rug (‘That rug really tied the room together’). He finds he’s been mixed up with Jeff ‘The Big Lebowski’ Lebowski (David Huddleston) and goes to the millionaire’s house seeking compensation for his ruined rug. But instead, ‘The Dude’ learns that his namesake’s wife Bunny (Tara Reid) has been kidnapped and ends up being asked to be bagman for the ransom.

From then things go down hill, as he meets The Big Lebowski’s daughter from his first marriage, Maude (Julianne Moore), who paints using her nude body and shows him films featuring her mother that are definitely not home movies, gets involved with a nihilist techno-rock group involved in the kidnap as well trying to work out the double crossing going on on all sides. He’s helped in his pursuit of the leads by close friends Walter Sobchak (John Goodman), who lives in a present constructed around his experiences in Vietnam and Donny (Steve Buscemi) who live in a present constructed around mental vacuity. And there’s also the bowling league to worry about, where he’s due to play Jesus Quintana (John Turturro in a film-stealing cameo) who’s probably the craziest man in a world of crazies.

The Cohen Brothers next film after Fargo is distinctly less black in its humour (although there is a severed toe involved) but the overall theme is one of shambling comedy, emphasised by The Dude, who always starts the day with resolve which dissolves after a couple of White Russians. On release, some critics did find the structure confusing after the linear Fargo but The Big Lebowski ends equally satisfyingly and even the tumbleweed that starts the film has a mission in the end.

production details
USA | 117 minutes | 1998

Director: Joel Coen
Script: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, J. Todd Anderson,

Jeff Bridges as Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski
John Goodman as Walter Sobchak
Steve Buscemi as Theodore Donald “Donny” Kerabatsos
Julianne Moore as Maude Lebowski
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Brandt
David Huddleston as Jeffrey “The Big” Lebowski
John Turturro as Jesus Quintana
Tara Reid as Bunny Lebowski
Sam Elliott as The Stranger
Ben Gazzara as Jackie Treehorn
Peter Stormare as Nihilist #1, Uli Kunkel / “Karl Hungus”
Torsten Voges as Nihilist #3, Franz
Flea as Nihilist #2, Kieffer
Aimee Mann as Nihilist Woman, Franz’s Girlfriend
Philip Moon as Woo, Treehorn Thug
Mark Pellegrino as Blond Treehorn Thug
Jimmie Dale Gilmore as Smokey
Jack Kehler as Marty
James G. Hoosier as Liam O’Brien, Quintana’s Partner
David Thewlis as Knox Harrington
Jon Polito as Da Fino
Carlos Leon as Maude’s Thug #1
Richard Gant as Older Cop
Christian Clemenson as Younger Cop
Dom Irrera as Tony the Chauffeur
Lu Elrod as Coffee Shop Waitress
Mike Gomez as Auto Circus Cop
Peter Siragusa as Gary the Bartender
Marshall Manesh as Doctor
Harry Bugin as Arthur Digby Sellers
Irene Olga López as Pilar, Sellers’ Housekeeper
Luis Colina as Corvette Owner
Leon Russom as Malibu Police Chief
Ajgie Kirkland as Cab Driver
Jerry Haleva as Saddam Hussein
Jennifer Lamb as Pancake Waitress
Jesse Flanagan as Little Larry Sellers
Wendy Braun as Chorine Dancer (uncredited)
Asia Carrera as Sherry in ‘Logjammin’ (uncredited)
Kiva Dawson as Dancer (uncredited)
Anthony J. Sacco as Cook (uncredited)