Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski (The Big Lebowski)

Created by Joel and Ethan Coen

The 1998 Coen Brothers film, The Big Lebowski, is one of the funniest and most outlandish parodies of the private eye film sub-genre, but is also, in a bizarre way, as much an affectionate tribute to and continuation of the tradition.

Its main character, JEFF “THE DUDE” LEBOWSKI, is by no stretch of the imagination a private eye, yet this hapless, shaggy-haired, pot-addled slacker gets drawn into a series of events — and bounces up against a cast of SoCal crazies — that echoes, step for step, the kind of adventure that Chandler’s Marlowe himself might have found himself in — if Marlowe smoked a lot of dope, drank a lot of White Russions and bowled way more, that is.

It starts with a not-so-simple case of mistaken identity, as slacker Jeff Lebowski (“Let me explain something to you. Um, I am not “Mr. Lebowski”… I’m the Dude. So that’s what you call me. You know, that or, uh, His Dudeness, or uh, Duder, or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.”) is mistaken for a millionaire with the same name by two legbreakers, who piss on his rug, hoping to inspire to pay off his namesake’s debt — a debt that the perpetually toasted Jeff, of course, knows nothing about.

Figuring he can convince the real Lebowski to pay for his befouled broadloom, The Dude pays him a visit, only to be roped into accepting a potentially luctative one-time job — delivering the ransom for the millionaire’s kidnapped wife. But things don’t go smoothly, and soon the Dude and his bowling pals and drinking buddies (including John Goodman as Walter, a deranged, recently converted Jew with a more than a few anger issues) are pitted against kidnappers, erotic performance artists, Neo-Nazis, and porn moguls, among others.

Yeah, the hazy, meandering plot is almost beside the point, but couldn’t the same be said of Chandler?

Meanwhile, the Dude abides…

THE EVIDENCE

  • “Hey, careful, man, there’s a beverage here!”
    — The Dude
  • “… sometimes, there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that’s the Dude, in Los Angeles. And even if he’s a lazy man – and the Dude was most certainly that. Quite possibly the laziest in Los Angeles County, which would place him high in the runnin’ for laziest worldwide. But sometimes there’s a man, sometimes, there’s a man. Aw. I lost my train of thought here. But… aw, hell. I’ve done introduced him enough.”
    — The Stranger, in the voiceover intro
  • “I hate the fuckin’ Eagles, man.”
    — The Dude
  • “Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.”
    — The Dude
  • “Fuck sympathy! I don’t need your fuckin’ sympathy, man, I need my fucking johnson!”
    — The Dude
  • “I told that kraut a fucking thousand times that I don’t roll on Shabbos!”
    — Walter
  • Jackie Treehorn: “Interactive erotic software. The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic! ”
    The Dude: “Yeah well, I still jerk off manually.”
  • “Nihilists! Fuck me. I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.”
    — Walter
  • “That rug really tied the room together. ”
    — The Dude

UNDER OATH

  • “The Coen brothers’ slacker homage to classic Hollywood detective yarns—and Busby Berkeley musicals—simultaneously follows and skewers noir tropes… the Dude is the sleuth who enters a world of pain on their behalf, a modern knight looking for redemption in the mansions, parking lots, and bowling alleys of early-’90s Los Angeles. Other films have parodied noir, but few of them hold up so well as an example of the genre itself. Well, that’s just, like, our opinion, man.”
    — Oleg Ivanov (The 100 Best Film Noirs of All Time, Slant Magazine)

FILMS

  • THE BIG LEBOWSKI Buy on DVD Buy on Blu-Ray | Watch it now!
    (1998, Working Title Films)
    117 minutes
    Written by Joel and Ethan Coen
    Directed by Joel Coen
    Produced by Ethan Coen
    Starring Jeff Bridges as THE DUDE
    Also starring John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, Peter Stormare, John Turturro, Julianne Moore, David Huddleston, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Flea, Leon Russom, Sam Elliott, Tara Reid, David Thewlis, Ben Gazzara

FURTHER INVESTIGATIONS

  • So It’s Come to This
    The Film Geeks’ Top Ten P.I. Films. James and Gustavo have spoken.
  • I’m a Lebowski, You’re a Lebowski (2007; by Green, Peskoe, Russell & Shuffitt) | Buy this book
    Subtitled “Life, ‘The Big Lebowski’ and What-Have-You” this is the ultimate fan book for those who know. Featuring an intro by Jeff Bridges. The Dude abides.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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