Sunday, July 23, 2017

I didn't care for The Big Lebowski

So I watched The Big Lebowski off my DVR this weekend. It's on DVD and Blu-Ray, and for people with the HBO package, it's going to be on various channels in that package multiple times this week. Check your box guide. Having said that, however, it's a movie that left me cold.

Jeff Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) is an unemployed slacker in Los Angeles who generally goes not by his legal name, but by "The Dude". His one love in life seems to be bowling, as he bowls in a league on a team with his friends Walter (John Goodman) and Donny (Steve Buscemi). One night after getting home, he finds that there are two men there waiting for him. Those men, it turns out, are loan sharks, and they want him to pay back the large sum of money he's borrowed from them. And when he can't -- and claims he doesn't know anything about the money -- one of the men pees on his Oriental rug.

It turns out there's another Jeffrey Lebowski out there, no relation to the Dude. This one is a wheelchair-bound businessman (David Huddleston) who runs a charitable foundation helping inner-city would be child entrepreneurs. His current trophy wife is apparently spending money like there's no tomorrow, and she's the Lebowski responsible for the loan sharks' showing up. So the Dude wants his namesake to pay for the damage to the carpet, since it's the elder Lebowski who's gotten into all this trouble.

A few days later, the Dude gets a call from the other Lebowski's personal assistant Brandt (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Apparently Mrs. Lebowski has been kidnapped, and if the Dude is willing to take part in delivering the ransom -- after all, the kidnappers wouldn't recognize him -- there's a substantial reward awaiting him. Things start to get really complicated from here. The elder Lebowski's daughter (Julianne Moore) gets in on the action, since the ransom money is coming from the foundation, what with the elder Lebowski only having a stipend from the foundation and not his own wealth. And that's the least complicated part.

So what didn't I like about the movie? A lot. It's not just that the plot is complicated; it's that it often came across as incoherent. There was one bit about the Dude's beater car being stolen and then finding a high school kid apparently responsible for it that didn't seem to fit in with the rest of the movie. And some of the bowling scenes seem to serve no purpose but to pad out the plot. I couldn't figure what John Turturro's character was doing, either, other than being unfunny.

And for unfunny characters, there's Walter. I consistently wanted somebody to beat the crap out of him because he was almost uniformly an unfunny jerk screwing things up for the Dude, as with the original ransom delivery that went wrong. The whole "I served in Vietnam" shtick was also stupid and tedious, as was the constant swearing. Julianna Moore and her artist sidekick were also unfunny, although at least not jerks.

There's also the cinematography, which engages in a lot of unorthodox camera angles and film techniques, especially in shots of bowling balls and pins. These seemed to serve no purpose other than for the filmmakers to say, "Look! We can do techniques like this now!"

The end result of all of this was, for me, a confused mess that was supposed to be funny but isn't. And yet, the movie is on the IMDb Top 250 list, which means that it's obviously got a lot of fans out there. So if you haven't seen it before, you may not want to take my opinion on staying away from it.

No comments: