Classic Film | Issue 3

Classic Film | Issue 3

The Big Lebowski (1998)

Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen

All The Dude ever wanted was his rug back.

When Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) is mistaken for an indebted millionaire of same name, and his rug is thusly micturated upon by a porn baron’s enforcer, he embarks on an epic quest to obtain, you know, adequate recompense for his loss. After all, that rug really tied the room together. And this guy peed on it.

The Dude is aided – well, sort of – by his friends and bowling partners Walter Sobchak (John Goodman), a civil liberties-touting, quasi-fascist Jewish convert; and Donnie Kerabatsos (Steve Buscemi), whose only discernible trait is an ability to draw Walter’s ire. Before long, the three are drawn into a complicated kidnapping plot and The Dude must navigate between the demands of the millionaire Lebowski and his feminist daughter Maude (Julianne Moore), who likes to paint while strapped naked to a harness.

There are so many classic moments in The Big Lebowski: The hairnet-wearing, pelvis-thrusting, paedophile bowler called Jesus. The scene in which three German nihilists break into The Dude’s house wielding a cricket bat and a marmot, and threaten to cut off his Johnson. The taxi driver who loves The Eagles. The Dude’s attempt to brace his door.

Ultimately, however, The Big Lebowski is most memorable for the character of The Dude, who is modelled on various washed-up members of the 60s radical movement. A shambling ex-hippy whose slacker lifestyle has inspired an online religion (“Dudeism”), The Dude’s deepest desires and tripped-out psyche are navigated most prominently in a pair of utterly brilliant surrealist dream sequences.

Though beloved by the substance-impaired, The Big Lebowski is far more than just a stoner comedy. Beneath the bizarre characters and The Dude’s White Russian- and marijuana-imposed cranial fog, the Chandleresque plot is tightly and skilfully constructed. The film is still hilarious and gripping in a state of full sobriety, even if this is a state that The Dude himself, thanks to those ubiquitous White Russians, never quite achieves.
– Sam McChesney
This article first appeared in Issue 3, 2012.
Posted 6:37pm Sunday 11th March 2012 by Sam McChesney.