Saturday, 24 September 2011


 Seeing NOBODY'S FOOL, AMERICAN SPLENDOUR and THE BIG LEBOWSKI so closely together is an interesting experience as all three centre around rather different "outsiders" from society. The Coen's THE BIG LEBOWSKI is for me the weakest of the three for many reasons. I came to the film with little knowledge of it - none of the story it tells - and only a slight awareness of the cult that surrounds it and its central character "the dude" played by Jeff Bridges. I've enjoyed several films by the Coen Brothers, most recently their version of TRUE GRIT, although I've been rather surprised at most of adulation heaped upon them by their fans. For me THE BIG LEBOWSKI is yet another case of the slight of hand that passes for originality in Hollywood today. There is a lot to enjoy in the film but it contains absolutely nothing in terms of originality (unlike AMERICAN SPLENDOUR) and comes over as contrived in the extreme. The plot is an amalgamation of film noir/private eye cliches - smart mouthed loner hired by millionaire to investigate a kidnapping that may or may not be genuine, the sexy blonde by the pool, the femme fatale, the beatings by hired thugs working for a local crime kingpin - the over used plot element of the detective character (a role fulfilled here by "the dude") being followed by a mysterious figure who turns out to be another Private Eye is rolled out yet again. Okay, okay, it may be a homage to Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald but these days "homage" tends to mean laziness. If you are going to take the classic PI plot and stand it on its head you need to look to films like Frear's GUMSHOE or Altman's THE LONG GOODBYE to see what can be achieved. To fill the film with entertaining (and they are entertaining to be sure) eccentric characters is simply not enough. Having said that the film has some very funny moments and while I never warmed to any of the characters they are, without exception, superbly played by Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, David Huddleston, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Sam Elliott. Rating ***


Cerpts said...

Wow, I coulda sworn I read this very same review on another site.

I would wholeheartedly agree with you that this is the least of the three movies you mentioned since I love love LOVE the other two. And I am certainly no fan of the Coen Brothers - I think RAISING ARIZONA is the only film of theirs I ever liked. FARGO was ok but all the Coens' other films (that I've seen) annoy the living hell outta me. THE BIG LEBOWSKI is the one I found the be the most watchable -- specifically for the performances as you mentioned. I actually don't think the word "homage" is the correct one for this film; I think the wackiness of the film comedy makes the word "parody" of the cliches you mentioned more correct regarding this film. "Pardoy" in the same way that YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN was a parody of Universal horror; I think it's an affectionate way to utilize those cliches which I assume the Coens love in the midst of some pretty silly goings on. I also think that your three stars rating is just about right: four stars would be too many and two stars too little considering the wonderful performances going on. The screenplay and the directing are NOT what make this movie but the performances!


Weaverman said...

Yeah, okay, I'll go with parody but I'm not entirely convinced.

You may indeed have read this review on another site - it happens when you don't check which blog you are writing on.