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34 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Coens And 'California Crazy'!, July 29, 2003
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This review is from: The Big Lebowski (DVD)
In what has to be the most brilliantly disjointed and anarchic look at the alienation, apathetic stupor, and pedestrian self-absorption of the pathetic Southern California lifestyle ever filmed, the two Coen brothers (`Fargo') produced and directed this near `cult' film to explore the plethora of cultural cop-outs parading as lifestyles in this zany yet affectionate look at a totally burned out and yet eminently likeable basket case by the name of Jeff Lebowski, who is played masterfully by Jeff Bridges, in yet another of his consistently underestimated character portrayals. Lebowski prefers to go by his street name of "Dude", and seems to be the ultimate California case of a one-time fairly intelligent `n'er-do-well' now perpetually down on his luck and reduced to only occasional flashes of clarity and full functioning after way too many years of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, and then some more drugs tossed in on the side.
The Coens' penchant for offbeat characters is having a field day here, with everyone in the cast allowed to vent in a kind of wacko 'Disneyland on the strip' approach to making the endless days of gorgeous LA sunshine pass, as our protagonist finds trouble in the promised land. Particularly memorable here is John Goodman weighing in as the paranoid and unpredictably violent Walter Sobchak, the `Dude's' best friend and perpetual bowling partner. The holy ceremony of bowling and the seriousness that it plays in the lives of the several losers like the Dude, Sobchak, and the preening eccentric Jesus Quintana (a wonderfully over-the-top John Turturro) and the rest of the motley crew on the Dude's team provides a kind of key that unlocks the mystery of their uniformly alienated, pointless, and directionless lives, as each tumbles from crisis to crisis, and with each attempt that Dude makes to cope with the circumstances that mysteriously start to swirl around his drug addled self-absorption and wake him into a groggy yet sober recognition that something very serious and potentially deadly is going on around him, he is repeatedly sabotaged and blind-sided by the myopic and near-psychotic antics of his friends.
Dude seems to approach crisis management as an exercise in spin control, and tries, sometimes quite ingeniously, to talk his way out of the staccato violence that punctuates his days with increasingly urgent frequency. But as the mystery deepens and Lebowski is sucked farther into the quicksand of coincidences, mistaken identities, and sheer madness that lurks just beneath the cover of these friendly skies, we are introduced to the powers and the principalities that are driving the madcap antics and the increasing shrill intensities of everyone but the Dude. The plot often seems disjointed, yet in a macabre way that seems to shout that not only is truth sometimes stranger than fiction, it is sometimes absolutely insane. Yet it eventually resolves itself into a semi-rational resemblance to plausible reality, or at least almost. And one walks way from the outstanding ensemble cast's performance thinking that something magic and allegorical has happened here, and it is perhaps exactly the insanity of the proceeding activity that is the point. They are indeed, every last one of them, just California crazy! This is a wild roller coaster of a film experience, but one absolutely worth the taking. Buckle up, kids, you're in for a bumpy ride! Enjoy!
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 16, 2012 11:22:08 PM PDT
abu arrusa says:
Wonderful review 'Labradorman'. I'm very much looking forward to viewing the movie during the London Olympics where, inexplicably, bowling is not deemed a worthy event. Abidingly...

Posted on Nov 19, 2012 2:02:04 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 19, 2012 2:07:56 PM PST
JNagarya says:
I think the only one sane in the film is the Dude. And, perhaps, Donnie -- except he doesn't manage to get a whole word in from any angle throughout so it is impossible to determine.

Walter is definitely beyond burnout -- with no evidence of drug use except for beer. I think psychotic is about right.

As for drugs: you mean, of course, pot, and alcohol in the form of white Russians.

And I'm not certain your locating these characters in the Southern California you describe is fair; certainly there are other places in the country with characters equally disconnected from the present.

Anyway, I hate The Eagles. Even in Spanish.
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