The Big Lebowski

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Story: While trying to get restitution for a ruined rug, the Dude takes on a kidnapping courier job that enmeshes him and his friends in a lethal mystery.  Or something.

Detective:  The Dude (aka Jeffrey Lebowski)

Release Date: March 6, 1988

Writer: Ethan and Joel Cohen

Source:  VERY loosely based on The Big Sleep.


Mystery Analysis:
Detective as protagonist?

Jenny: Yes
Lani: Sure.

Murderer as antagonist?
Jenny: No murderer and not a clear antagonist, although that’s what we get for trying to do classic analysis on the Coens.
Lani: There’s no murderer, and there are many antagonists, not all of them related. This is a little murky.

Conflict created by murder?
Jenny: Substitute kidnapping for murder, and yes.
Lani: Conflict is created by the mystery, yes.

Fair play with all the clues given?
Jenny: Well, we know what the Dude knows, but since the Dude is stoned through the whole thing, he’s not exactly looking for clues.
Lani: We know more than the Dude knows – we’re told that she’s fine and she has her pinky toe when we see her car shoot down the freeway. So we’re given some answers which are just handed to us, rather than worked for.

Solved using deduction, not luck?
Jenny: The Dude has an insight at the end because of a clue Maude gives him.
Lani: The Dude figures it out, but at that point, there’s nothing at stake really but justice, letting the Big Lebowski know that the Dude knows and does not approve.

All threads pull together at the end?
Jenny: Yes.
Lani: Yes.

Story Analysis & Ratings:

Jenny says: ? Pops
Mystery: 3, Craft: 4, Suspense: 4, Romance: N/A, Comedy: 5
This is a Coen Bros. movie so running a classic analysis on it is a waste of time, you really just have to bask in the absurdity.  They’ve done better stories (see Fargo and Raising Arizona), but the Dude is an iconic character (not to mention Walter) so they get props for that.

Lani says: 4 Pops
Mystery: 2, Craft: 4, Suspense: 2, Romance: n/a, Comedy: 5

This is a fun movie. It’s structurally a mess, but it works on its own terms, and for that, it’s fun. I’m not sure there’s a real lesson to be learned here about mystery, which is why we’re here, but as a fun, offbeat, non-traditional story, it’s definitely worth viewing.

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3 responses to “The Big Lebowski”

  1. DH was so surprised when I pulled it up on Netflix. I never ask to watch this:) It’s not that I mind watching it but the Coen’s aren’t my ‘go to’ movies. They’re too much work for me and usually there’s something missing in each one. Sometimes it’s just not the movie for me. Sometimes I hate the actor they picked. Sometimes there’s no ‘there’ there. This time they got close but – eh.

  2. It was interesting for me because watching it this time with the writer POV I could see where the lack of a strong antagonist really kneecapped a lot of great characters. I think they knew it which is why they tacked on the confrontation with nihilists at the end. The confrontation with the Big Lebowski just wasn’t enough because he was such a weak antagonist.
    They shoulda made Phillip Seymour Hoffman a mastermind.

  3. Totally disagree. I love their movies and actively seek them out. I don’t find the Coen Brothers “too much work.” With all the trash that Hollywood is producing, all I can say is, please, can I have more quality movies like those that the Coen Brothers produce? I don’t hate the actors they pick; far from it. I really enjoy their casting, their plotlines, their, as you say, adsurdity. Life is a series of both dark and light, absurd and comic versus dark. They find both the absurd and comic and dark in their characters and blend them in these amazing ways, like no one has ever done it before. I am always surprised and never bored with the Coen Brothers. And I can’t see anyone else playing The Dude except for Jeff Bridges. I certainly don’t feel any of the characters were “kneecapped” by the lack of a strong antagonist. Phillip Seymour Hoffman in this movie as a mastermind would have runined the movie. The Dude was up against some serious players here, but it was the way he played it, and who he was, and the way events unfolded. I simply love this movie.