THE BIG LEBOWSKI
About The Production
That the plot of THE BIG LEBOWSKI turns on a case of mistaken identity, complicated by extortion, double-cross, deception, embezzlement, sex and dope should come as no surprise to the fans of the Coen brothers
That the plot of THE BIG LEBOWSKI turns on a case of mistaken
identity, complicated by extortion, double-cross, deception, embezzlement,
sex and dope should come as no surprise to the fans of the Coen
brothers. Such themes have surfaced in the Coen's work from their
very first film, 1985's Blood Simple. But even though the
story of THE BIG LEBOWSKI contains its fair share of mayhem
and assorted suspicious and unsavory incidents, the film is definitely
a comedy. We see THE BIG LEBOWSKI as our version of a 90s
Raymond Chandler story with a mystery private eye plot , Ethan
Coen says, referring to the great detective writer whose novels
served as the basis for several 1940s film noirs including The
Big Sleep and Murder, My Sweet.
But instead of the protagonist being Philip Marlowe, who was Chandler's
private eye, we have as our hero a laid-back, unemployed guy who's
stuck in the 70s named Jeff Lebowski who calls himself the Dude.
The Dude is described by the Coens in their screenplay as a man
in whom casualness runs deep. He lives a peaceful beach existence
in a run-down bungalow in Venice, pretty much content to spend
his time bowling with his buddies. They are Walter, a pompous
security-store owner and amateur military historian, and Donny,
a mild-mannered ex-surfer.
The Dude's peace and quiet is shattered, however, when he's terrorized
by two thugs who warn him that he's responsible for his wife's
debts to a shady character named Jackie Treehorn. But, in fact,
the Dude's not married; it turns out that he's been mistaken for
someone else named Jeffrey Lebowski, an aging millionaire who
lives in Pasadena. When Walter persuades the Dude to contact this
other Jeff Lebowski, our hero and his friends become embroiled
in a series of underhanded, not to mention criminal activities.
Just as in the Chandler novels, the story of THE BIG LEBOWSKI
is set in Los Angeles, and the plot--again as in Chandler--moves
among the different social classes and different types the Dude
runs across as the story unfolds.
I suppose the THE BIG LEBOWSKI is specifically about L.A.
in the way Fargo was about the Midwest, says Joel Coen.
"Certainly the story takes place in the L.A. that we're familiar
with, and many of the characters in the film are based on people
that we know and people we've met here."
"But we've placed it all in a Chandleresque kind of context.
We have a voice-over narration, and elements of double-cross and
deception that exist on several levels among people whose motives
are devious and obscure, and many of these characters deliberately
recall types you'd run across in Chandler. In The Big Sleep,
for instance, there's a sophisticated older sister and a younger
one, who's a tart. In THE BIG LEBOWSKI, the sophisticated
female character is the millionaire Lebowski's daughter, Maude,
and the immoral figure is Bunny, his young wife."
"We've written the story from a modern point of view and
set it very precisely in 1991 during the Persian Gulf War, Ethan
adds, which also has a direct effect on the Dude and his friends.
In the end, the amateur sleuthing of these guys unearths the secrets
of the plot and solves a case that might have challenged a professional
private eye like Philip Marlowe... if he had lived in the Los
Angeles of the nineties and been an avid bowler and a pothead."
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