Film: screen scene

The Big Lebowski sounds like one of those moralistic boxing movies made by Hollywood some decades ago - a fact drawn upon by Joel and Ethan Coen in their memorable Barton Fink. But The Big Lebowski is about something much more frightening to the American psyche: failure. More precisely, Lebowski takes an endearing look at casual, personal failure in a city which has a wallet and a facelift where its heart and soul should be.

Jeff Bridges teams up with Coen regulars John goodman and Steve Buscemi to play a clutch of downmarket, rogue males whose lives are defined by an ensuing local bowling tournament. Until, that is, a brutal twist of mistaken identity results in a quirky tale rife with covetable one-liners and cameos which prove there are no small roles (just small actors).

The Coens make European movies in America. These Minneapolis natives dare to make films for people who can read a book without moving their lips. Yet, unlike some of their European counterparts, the Coens don't know how to be pretentious. Inspiring the likes of French filmmakers Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the Coens can hit us with some of the most casually presented yet eye-scaring visuals imaginable. A litany of their titles - Fargo, The Hudsucker Proxy, Barton Fink, Miller's Crossing, Blood Simple and Raising Arizona - read like your favourite restaurant's menu. Each one shows how one film can balance slapstick with intelligence, gruesome coincidence with sentiment. Lebowski is a prime example of Coen Brothers movie making. To that I say hallelujah.

Expect long queues for The Big Lebowski, a film which is funny and poignant but too wise to ask any big, important questions. It is, after all, set in LA, perhaps the only city dumber than Minneapolis.