If I were crowned Czarina of the movies, my first decree would be that all films must have voiceover introductions by Sam Elliott, that wonderful actor best known as television’s Conagher. In The Big Lebowski, Elliott uses his deep, rumbling-thunder tones to set the stage for an enormously entertaining tale of mistaken identity.
As Elliott speaks to us, a tumbleweed rolls its lonely way to the outskirts of Los Angeles. In the background, we hear the Sons of the Pioneers crooning “Tumblin’ Tumbleweed.” And then we meet the most casual hero ever depicted on film, a man called “The Dude” (Jeff Bridges). Bridges, perfect for this role, plays an unemployed throw-back to the 70s who has the same name as Jeff Lebowski, a Pasadena millionaire. The big story in The Big Lebowski is too complicated to explain in a brief review. It features such key plot points as kidnapping, romance, avant garde art, embezzlement, deception, dreams and bowling.
Two of the film’s many delights are John Goodman and Steve Buscemi as the Dude’s best friends and bowling buddies. Goodman portrays a loud-mouth ex-serviceman obsessed with his experiences in Vietnam. He pushes the Dude into ridiculous no-win situations. Buscemi, at the other extreme, just goes along with any plans, never quite sure of what’s happening.
Although played strictly for laughs, The Big Lebowski raises some provocative questions about friendship. Just how much should we rely on our friends during a crisis situation? Should we tell friends how to solve their problems? How far should we go in helping a friend out of a jam?
I rate The Big Lebowski as one of the best films from those talented siblings, Joel and Ethan Coen. But, for the life of me, I can’t figure out why they don’t cast Sam Elliott in more of their movies. (Capsule review)
For more information about this film, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.
(Released by Gramercy Pictures and rated “R” for pervasive strong language, drug content, sexuality and brief violence.)