20 years ago, The Big Lebowski released in theaters. Today the movie is considered a cult classic with many people considering it the Coen Brothers best movie. But it wasn’t always that way.
The Big Lebowski was the Coen Brothers first movie since Fargo, which won two Oscars and was nominated for five others. So critics were expecting something different than Lebowski, a neo-noir mystery movie mixed with a stoner comedy. While some critics loved the film, others trashed it.
But what do those critics think about the movie today?
The Washington Post asked a handful of critics who reviewed the movie poorly in 1998 to re-evaluate it and see if their opinions have changed.
Alex Ross from Slate said he missed the point on the movie in his first viewing and now considers it to be one of the Coen Brothers better films. David Denby from New York Magazine and Daphne Merkin from The New Yorker both noted that they had written pieces in the years since the movie praising it and noting some of the complexities of the movie that may not have seemed as obvious on a first viewing.
Edward Guthmann from the San Francisco Chronicle somewhat defended his original review, saying there’s still “an excess of characters and goof plot elements” and that the movie’s manic style isn’t to his taste. But he did say he thinks Jeff Bridge’s performance is really good, and he appreciates it more than he did originally.
Meanwhile Kenneth Turan from the Los Angeles Times says he hasn’t re-seen the movie, but he is curious if the movie’s cult reputation would make him see it differently. But he hasn’t tested it.
So it seems that all of them acknowledge that there’s something special about the movie that’s generated so many fans over the years.
I wonder if we’ll be saying the same thing about Burn After Reading in 20 years…