Okay, so MAYBE I’m a film student who had never seen The Coen Brothers The Big Lebowski until about 10 minutes ago. Sue me. Regarded as a cult classic, The Big Lebowski has become iconic in the film canon and is beloved for its mad dialogue, trippy dream sequences and legendary characters (big up The Dude). I finally got around to sitting down and watching it, and here are some of my thoughts.
First off, the soundtrack is amazing. Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello? Sign me up! I love a movie that actually engages with its music, and The Big Lebowski is no exception. The Dude regularly mentions his beloved Creedence tapes that he keeps in his very beaten up Ford Gran Torino (beautiful car that is definitely well overdue some TLC), and listens to a bunch of tunes on his little walkman whenever he has the opportunity to do so. There’s also a pretty cool cover of ‘Hotel California’ in there, despite The Dude himself not being an Eagles fan.
What about the rest of the film? Well, in a word, it’s absurd. There’s just so much going on at once, and the plot just gets steadily more and more complicated, but this is placated with the easily relatable characters who don’t let the film run away with itself. A stoner (Jeff Bridges), war vet (John Goodman), and loveable sidekick (Steve Buscemi) are easy enough to keep up with. I can understand why people like it so much, and why the characters have become so legendary; it’s entertaining, but not too light that it doesn’t allow you to think for yourself and figure out what’s going on. Following lead character The Dude, the film begins with a mistaken identity and one poor soiled rug and evolves into a complicated ransom plot gone wrong, with a side of a bowling championship. It’s ridiculous, but it’s entertaining and super funny.
The Big Lebowski is also surprisingly poignant. Not to get too deep into an analysis of it, but I found that The Dude’s outlook on life, his experiences with those around him, and the film’s frequent discussion of philosophy were really interesting, and not something that I expected to find at all. A group of secondary antagonists are coined as ‘nihilists’ by The Dude, and he condemns their ‘not caring about anything’ attitude, but then The Dude himself is frequently critiqued for having no apparent direction in life, deciding instead to float through in a fog of hallucinogens and 70s rock music. Several times throughout the movie The Dude is asked what his occupation is, what he does with his time, and near enough every time he stumbles through an answer akin to ‘I just vibe man’, much to the confusion and annoyance of those around him. When presented with the possibility of something permanent in his life in the form of a child, The Dude panics, only calming down when he is told that he won’t have anything to do with the child’s upbringing. It’s a curious movie in general, but from the perspective of a close character study and said character’s reflection of wider philosophical questions, it opens up to be very fascinating.
Overall, I’d say that I enjoyed The Big Lebowski. Was it a strange film? Most certainly. Was it enjoyable and entertaining? Definitely.