Quite Simply The Dude
There are a lot of people who absolutely loves the Coen's "The Big Lebowski", I'm not one of them, I only like it. I like it because to be honest it's not that special, oh it has some wonderful performances and at the centre of it Jeff Bridges is brilliant as The Dude but beyond the performances it is nothing which hasn't been done before. You see "The Big Lebowski" is nothing more than a modern take on a screwball comedy built around mistaken identity and contrived situations as a poor sap finds himself stuck in an ever increasing mess. It's the sort of idea which filled the golden era of Hollywood and whilst the Coen's have done a good job of updating the idea to a modern situation there is nothing more to it than that.
"The Dude" Lebowski (Jeff Bridges - Blown Away) is an easy going sort of guy, he keeps himself to himself, that is until he is mistaken for a millionaire of the same name and two thugs who are looking for money end up urinating on his rug. No one urinates on The Dude's rug and so he tracks down the millionaire Lebowski (David Huddleston - Life with Mikey) looking for compensation for his damaged rug. But he finds himself doing a job for the millionaire Lebowski and enlists the help of his angry best friend Walter (John Goodman - The Hudsucker Proxy) but things go seriously wrong and The Dude soon finds himself at the centre of a convoluted mess with lots of people wanting something from him and his easy going world is turned upside down.
So as already mentioned "The Big Lebowski" is really Coen's paying homage to the classic screwball comedy by giving it a modern make over. That modern make over means we have The Dude an easy going dope smoker who doesn't work and mooches around in a dressing gown when he isn't hanging out at the bowling alley with his friends. Now to be honest The Dude is a great creation and that is down to Jeff Bridges who is just marvellous in the role, in fact in many ways it is Jeff Bridges who makes "The Big Lebowski" so entertaining. But ignoring The Dude for a moment and what we have has sort of been done before.
Maybe modern audiences who idolize "The Big Lebowski" aren't aware of the rich history of screwball comedy which dominated cinema during the 1930s and 40s but for those who are can see where it is coming from. It is in many ways the classic set up of an innocent sap who finds him in the midst of a convoluted mess where he has several people after him following a case of mistaken identity. And the convoluted mess is certainly that from the fact The Dude is mistaken for a millionaire to the various groups of people who end up after him as his friends cause him more and more stress. But whilst all of this is entertaining it's not that original even if the groups of people which include Nihilist's and a porn empire tycoon are.
What is original is the modern flourishes and with The Dude being a dope smoker there are plenty of what can only be called trippy scenes. And to be honest the Coen brothers certainly deliver some stunning outer body visuals as The Dude floats down a bowling alley or over the city. But to me these moments of trippy delight jar with the screwball element thrown in due to the nature of The Dude but feel like they are set pieces with no relation to anything else.
But as already mentioned "The Big Lebowski" works because of Jeff Bridges as The Dude because he creates this charismatic character who whilst a waster is also strangely lovable. He's lovable because Bridges gets across that he just wants to lead his life, a quiet life and wants to do everything as easy as possible, something which many of us can warm to. He's also lovable because of his quirks and mannerisms which are all pleasantly amusing. It is because Bridges is so good that the solid performances from the rest of the cast which include John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore and an outrageous John Turturro end up being over shadowed.
What this all boils down to is that I like "The Big Lebowski", I like the fact that the Coen's have taken the classic screwball comedy and brought it up to date. And at the same time I like Jeff Bridges as The Dude, one of cinema's strangely iconic characters. But like is as far as I go as it didn't wow me, didn't blow my mind with originality or cleverness.