2008 author’s note: Looking back on this review 10 years after I wrote it, I was struck by two things. First, it’s funny to see how much time I was spending trying to work through my ambivalent feelings about the Coens — it seems to come down in part to a performance style that I find grating. Second, I gave this thing a B+? Man, I used to be a hard-ass.
In Jeff Bridges, the Coens have finally found a performer whose offhand presence is a perfect foil for their own loping eccentricity. As one Jeffrey Lebowski, Bridges conjures up the laid-back California counterpart to the uptight shock jock he played in The Fisher King. More solipsist than narcissist this time around, Lebowski is a casual ne’erdowell who describes himself in the mythic third person as “the Dude.”