tek's rating: ¾

The Big Lebowski (R)
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I'm writing this review after watching the movie on DVD in 2016. It came out in 1998, which kind of surprises me; I would have thought it was the early 90s. The movie opens with some narration by Sam Elliott, who is telling the story from some unspecified time, though he says it took place in the early 90s. (And in the beginning, what we see during his narration is a tumbleweed, so I almost suspected it was the tumbleweed itself telling the story.) I had seen the movie at some point before, though I don't remember whether it was the late 90s or the early 00s. I'm sure when I saw it, it was already a cult classic (which doesn't take long for a film to become, these days). And probably some friends of mine liked it, but I can't even recall whether I first saw it with friends or by myself. Nor did I remember much of the actual plot of the movie. I did remember not particularly caring for it, the first time I saw it. But now that I've seen it for a second time, it's hard to imagine not liking it. This time, I liked it rather a lot, and I'm sure at some points I kind of loved it. Or course, it's quite likely the first time I saw it, I wasn't drinking. This time I was. And I think this is the sort of movie that is best enjoyed when you're doing some kind of drugs, whether it's alcohol or weed or whatever. But whether I was drinking the first time I saw it, or not, I still should have liked it, because it's just so absurd and surreal, and I've always liked movies like that. Regardless of whether I'm drunk or sober.

Anyway, Jeff Bridges plays a slacker named Jeff Lebowski, although he calls himself "the Dude," as does anyone who knows him. Mainly this includes his friends Walter (John Goodman) and Donny (Steve Buscemi), with whom he is in a bowling league. One night, the Dude is assaulted in his home by a couple of guys who want to get money that is owed to their boss, I guess. And one of them pees on the Dude's rug. But they've got the wrong Jeff Lebowski. The money is actually owed by Bunny (Tara Reid), the wife of a rich old man with the same name as the Dude. So, upon Walter's dubious advice, the Dude goes to ask the other Lebowski (whom the thugs were actually looking for) to compensate him for the damage to his rug. But Lebowski refuses. Still, the Dude tricks Lebowski's staff into giving him one of Lebowski's rugs. Subsequently, that rug is stolen from the Dude by a woman named Maude Lebowski (Julianne Moore), the daughter of the rich Lebowski. And um... Bunny gets kidnapped, and Lebowski wants the Dude to act as a courier to deliver the ransom to the kidnappers. Ostensibly this is so that he could see whether they were the same people who had originally mistaken the Dude for Lebowski. Meanwhile, Maude wants the Dude to recover the money Lebowski had withdrawn from a charity foundation he runs to pay the ransom, because it isn't actually his money. Unfortunately, the Dude had allowed Walter (who is kind of crazy) to come along on the drop, and Walter fucked it up with an ill-conceived plan of his own. Subsequently, the Dude's car is stolen, along with the briefcase containing the money he was supposed to give to the kidnappers.

(Interesting aside, when I first saw this guy named Brandt, who works for Lebowski, I thought he looked like Christian Clemenson, whom I knew from The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. Although upon looking at IMDb, he was actually played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. However, when the Dude's car was stolen, he reported it to a couple of cops, one of whom was played by Clemenson, and at the time I was like "Wait, is he playing two different roles in the same movie?" But he wasn't. It was just a weird coincidence that I thought the first guy was him, and yet the actor I thought was him actually had a different role in the movie.)

Anyway... um... the movie has all kinds of weird twists. I don't even know what else to tell you. I don't want to spoil how it all ends, but the outcome isn't even that important. All that really matters is how crazy the ride is. It's incredibly funny (and again I must stress that I can't imagine how I could have failed to like the movie the first time I saw it). It's just really pretty awesome. I'm sure there are lots of specific examples of awesomeness that I can't even remember. I must say it's interesting that Walter could be as crazy as he is, and yet also have moments of calmness and even a genuinely philosophical bent. And, really, all the characters are pretty great, each in their own quirky way. I guess. Oh... and we do eventually see Sam Elliott as a stranger who talks with the Dude at the bowling alley. So it wasn't a tumbleweed narrating the film, after all.


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