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The Big Lebowski (rewatch)

Posted by martinteller on May 8, 2011

I wanted to revisit this movie for a number of reasons.  One, it’s been a long time and I’ve grown a lot as a film viewer since then.  Two, it’s got a huge cult following that I’ve wanted to understand better.  Three, it’s one of the TSPDT 1000 movies that I’ve never written a review of.  Four, I’ve learned a lot more about film noir and I wanted to view it in that light.  And five, although I’ve always liked the Coens, I’ve been particularly interested in their work lately.  So let’s get into it.  I do think this is a very clever film, and not in a bad way.  It explores noir conventions — the Phillip Marlowe model, the wartime/postwar themes — from a skewed viewpoint, infusing them with that off-kilter Coen style.  The layers of plot unfold nicely and it’s a satisfying journey.  The problem is I just don’t think it’s funny.  The performances are too mannered, even for a Coens film, and almost every major character rubs me the wrong way.  Is “Shut the fuck up, Donnie” such a witty line that we need to keep hearing it over and over?  It feels more like a concentrated effort to concoct a catchphrase, like many of the other oft-quoted lines in the movie.  I understand the appeal, but I think it’s more of a generational thing.  I grew up with Raising Arizona, a film much in the same vein.  That’s my quotable Coens (although I recognize that it has similar problems).  Maybe Lebowski came along too late in life for me.  But perhaps that’s too dismissive, I’m sure there are people my age who like it.  I did enjoy seeing it again and it has a number of admirable qualities.  It just doesn’t make me laugh.  Rating: 7


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