Pages Navigation Menu


big_lebowski_ver1THE BIG LEBOWSKI
Written by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Directed by Joel Coen
Starring Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi and Julianne Moore.

Walter: That rug really tied the room together!

After receiving so many accolades for their film, FARGO, many were surprised when the Coens followed that with THE BIG LEBOWSKI. With its extremely muddled, hole-ridden plot, it is easy to see how some fans could be taken off guard or dissatisfied; but we’re talking about the Coen Brothers here. In 1998, the time of the film’s release, the Coens were at their wackiest, and it should have come as a surprise to no one that they would make a two-hour film about a schlub who goes to great lengths to receive compensation for his soiled rug.

In a Sam Elliot provided voice-over, we are introduced to a rather dirty looking, heavily-bearded, sunglass-sporting man known simply as “The Dude” (Jeff Bridges). He spends most of his time lounging aimlessly around his dingy, Los Angeles bungalow and, when not at home, he can be found at the bowling alley. The Dude (or His Dudeness, Duder, or El Duderino, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing), bowls with his two best friends, Walter (John Goodman), a Polish-Jewish-Catholic Vietnam vet and Donny (Steve Buscemi), who just can’t seem to get anything right. In a case of mistaken identity, The Dude, whose real name is Jeff Lebowski, is mistaken for another Jeff Lebowski, a millionaire whose wife owes money to a porn tycoon Jackie Treehorn (Ben Gazzara). The Dude doesn’t seem to be too bothered by the case of mistaken identity, until after interrogating him, a couple of Treehorn’s porn star thugs urinate on his carpet. The Dude confronts the real Lebowski (David Huddleston), who could care less about the entire ordeal, until a couple days later when his wife, Bunny (Tara Reid) is kidnaped. Lebowski entrusts The Dude to be a courier of the one million dollar ransom in exchange for the safe return of his wife, an awful decision that is only made worse when Walter decides to come along for the ride. Along this journey we meet Lebowski’s frustrated daughter (Julianne Moore), fellow bowler “Jesus” (John Turturro), and Sam Elliot himself as “The Stranger”.


When the Coens wrote THE BIG LEBOWSKI, they most likely had no idea that they would be making one of the most beloved cult films of all time. The screenplay is endlessly quotable, from “Shut the fuck up, Donny!” to “The Dude abides” to “Nobody fucks with the Jesus!” Each line written in the film is amazingly unique, and surly one of the reasons the film’s legacy has lasted so long. Sure, there are many plot-holes and structural issues in the script, but the dialogue definitely makes up for it.

Working once again with cinematographer, Roger Deakins (who, after 10 nominations, has criminally not won an Oscar to this day), the film looks wonderful; and with great soundtrack choices, as well as a score from another frequent collaborator, Carter Burwell, it also sounds great. A dream sequence featuring everything from bowling, vaginal art, and even Saddam Hussein is one of the most beautiful and memorable scenes in the entire film.


Bridges gives what is perhaps a career defining performance as The Dude, and the chemistry between he, Goodman, and Buscemi is unlike any other. The film is at its best when the three are on screen together, discussing all things from Theodor Hertzl to Lenin (or Lennon as Buscemi’s Donny believes). THE BIG LEBOWSKI marks Buscemi’s fifth collaboration with the Coens; it is easy to see why they keep using him, as each line Donny says is more hilarious than the next.

With THE BIG LEBOWSKI, the Coens are at there most Coen-esque. It is the perfect film to sample their strong filmography, as it features many of the things they are most remembered for: quirky characters, dark-comedy, and unexpected plot-twists. So grab some popcorn, put on a robe, sprawl out on the rug, and join The Dude, Walter, and Donny for the ride of their lives. Just don’t soil it.


Joel and Ethan Coen: Tall Tales, a retrospective screening series, continues at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto, throughout December. Visit for more details. And don’t miss our all new feature, My 5 Favourite Coen Brothers Films!

Share Your Thoughts