Every now and then, a director comes along whose every film turns to gold. Back in the late 1970’s, Steven Spielberg could do no wrong. In the 80’s, it was Rob Reiner. Judging by “The Big Lebowski,” Joel and Ethan Cohen are in the midst of just such a golden streak right now.
A couple of goons accost affably mellow stoner “Dude” Lebowski in his apartment, claiming that Dude’s wife owes their boss a lot of money. When Dude (an exceptional Jeff Bridges) professes his ignorance, one of the cretins pees on his rug.
After relating the incident to his buddies Walter (John Goodman) and Donald (Steve Buscemi), Dude realizes that the bad guys were trying to extort a different Lebowski. He tracks down his alter ego with the intention of getting reimbursed for his soiled rug. What happens instead is a twisted adventure that begins when the other Lebowski’s wife is kidnapped and he hires Dude to act as the ransom courier. Within hours, poor Dude finds himself bounced between the nihilist techno-rock kidnappers, a wealthy porn king, a glowering fifteen year-old car thief, and the jealous sexpot daughter of Lebowski #2. Bummer, man.
The best thing about this film is that its excellence is its only resemblance to “Fargo.” Instead of a no-frills black comedy set in a small town in Minnesota, “The Big Lebowski” is a surreal screwball comedy set in LA, complete with Busby Berkely-style production numbers and the most psychedelic dream sequences since “Fantasia.”
Brilliantly scripted and full of a virtual Who’s Who of familiar faces, “The Big Lebowski” is yet another golden hunk of totally unique celluloid from the versatile Brothers Cohen. – Merle Bertrand