The next recommendation from the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book for my screening of Raging Bull (as a sports movie) is one of my all time favorite comedies, and one I quote almost as often as Ghostbusters and Back to the Future.
Sports, in the form of bowling, is involved peripherally in this tale of mistaken identity, ransoms, playoffs, nihilists, and White Russians. Jeff Bridges is front and center as The Dude. He’s relaxed (read as lazy), zen, loves his bowling, and his rug, and gets caught up in a problem that isn’t his when two thugs show up and ruin that rug when they mistake him for a different Lebowski, one, whose trophy wife, Bunny (Tara Reid) owes money.
When he is approached by this other Lebowski (David Huddleston), a millionaire, to act as a go between for him and the kidnappers, who have now, apparently, kidnapped Bunny, the Dude finds himself in a bit of a mess.
Along for the ride is the Dude’s best friend, the angry vet, Walter (awesomely played by John Goodman) and their oblivious pal, Donny (Steve Buscemi). Along the way he is seduced by Maude Lewbowski (Julianne Moore), has to bowl against Jesus (John Turtoro), deal with Lebowski’s right hand man, Brandt (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and even bumps into the film’s narrator (Sam Elliott).
The story twists and turns on itself, while the Dude remains its calm center. The further into this mess he finds himself, the more confusing things seem to get, but his gut instinct may be the right one.
While the Dude may just want to drink and roll, Walter sees a way to take advantage of the situation, but, everything goes sideways even worse, and puts a bit of a strain on their friendship. But things will play out as they must, and the Dude will end up doing what’s right, and maintaining his cool as he does.
Like all Coen films, the dialogue is whip smart (and incredibly quotable) and filled with great, and unique characters, who may or may not all be losers in one form or another, it simply depends on your point of view.
For me, personally, as well as thousands, possibly millions of others, I identify very strongly with The Dude, he just wants to relax, hang with friends, and keep social expectations of himself fairly low, but still able to do the right thing when he has to.
Watching this film, I can look at almost all the characters in the cast, and say, I know someone like that. It’s pretty wild. And while I don’t wander around in my bathrobe and sunglasses all the time with a White Russian in my hand, it has a lot of appeal…
I love this movie, pair it up with O Brother, Where Art Thou and I am just delighted.
What’s your favorite Coen brothers film?