Saturday, September 26, 2009

Movie Review - The Big Lebowski

The Big Lebowski

“The Dude abides. I don't know about you but I take comfort in that. It's good knowin' he's out there. The Dude. Takin' 'er easy for all us sinners,” says the Stranger as he offers closure near the end of the Coen Brothers’ film “The Big Lebowski.” Since the original release of the film, the phrase “the Dude abides” has become a placating mantra in response to the mainstream aim of the 1990s. The ‘90s culture promoted anxiety-driven prudence in order to achieve success. Jeffrey ‘The Dude’ Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) wants nothing more than to drift through life, but unfortunately he finds himself caught in a complex situation with many ins-and-outs and at the center of a very good, very humorous movie. The Dude’s nonchalance towards the lifestyle of the 1990s gives him an anti-hero persona; someone who is content with Credence Clearwater Revival a-tracks and bowling leagues.
The Stranger (Sam Elliott) narrates the 1998 noir comedy, a “stupefying” tale of carpet-pissers, kidnappings, known pornographers, and bowling. Set in Los Angeles near the time of “our conflict with Sad’m and the Iraqis,” “The Big Lebowski” follows The Dude as he seeks reimbursement for his soiled rug, a rug that really tied the room together.
The beginning scene showcases two thugs sent by a pornographer named Jackie Treehorn harassing the Dude, whom they have mistaken for a millionaire with the same name, Jeffrey Lebowski. One thug urinates on the carpet in frustration. On the advice of his friend, the Vietnam Veteran Walter Sobchak, played by the hilarious John Goodman, the Dude goes and asks the millionaire Lebowski for a new rug. The Dude is denied compensation (even though he does steal a nice rug) yet becomes embroiled in a situation outside his means. He becomes courier for the ransom drop-off in an effort to retrieve the millionaire’s trophy wife, Bunny Lebowski (Tara Reid), who has apparently been kidnapped and owes money to Jackie Treehorn But Walter convinces the Dude to keep the ransom money, forget the whole thing, and go bowling.
The story grows even stranger when the daughter, Maude Lebowski (Julianne Moore), seeks out the Dude. Apparently, the ransom money belonged to the Little Lebowski Urban Achievers Foundation and she wishes to have it back since it was not her father’s to use. The only catch is that the Dude lost the money when his car was stolen. The Dude and Walter with their friend Donny (Steve Buscemi) begin to suspect that Bunny kidnapped herself. Unfortunately, the millionaire Lebowski learns that the money drop was never made and tells the faux kidnappers, who are group of nihilists, to do whatever they please to the Dude, including castration. Jackie Treehorn is out to get the Dude as well once he falsely learns that the Dude had the money. But there never was any money. The millionaire Lebowski just wanted to get rid of his wife, who shows up unharmed at the end. Once the Dude and Walter realize the millionaire Lebowski’s aim, they forget the matter and end up going bowling. Tragically, Donny passed away in the mayhem, but as the Dude says, “gutters and strikes, man.”
On first screening, most believe the movie to be funny, yet confusing. But that is because of how well the Coens have constructed the plot to mimic absurdity. Once the movie is seen multiple times, the perplexing plot can be admired for the written craftsmanship of the idiocy along with the outrageous dialogue. More than several lines have become commonplace to quote, including, “Donny, you out of your element!” and “He’s a good man,…and thorough.”
As the Stranger suggests in his opening monologue, Los Angeles is the perfect setting for this particular tale since the Dude is an excessively lazy man. California allows the Dude to disconnect from the mainstream society of the 1990s, that of soccer moms, Ritalin, and striving for a higher position in the job market. The Dude is someone who still retains the attitude of “tune in, turn on, drop out.” He finds comforts outside the indistinguishable monotony of mainstream American culture. Where the Eagles are one of the most beloved bands in all of rock ‘n’ roll, the Dude is annoyed by them. In one comical scene, after one long night that takes him from Jackie Treehorn’s in Malibu to the police station on roofies, the Dude wakes up while being driven in a taxi cab. On the radio is “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” and when the Dude tells his taxi driver “ [I] had a rough night, and I hate the fucking Eagles, man,” the taxi driver leaves him on the side of the road.
The Coen Brothers attempt to comment that social dropouts are the people who lead interesting lives. Those who adhere to the norms of the 1990s and then think they have a life rarely will be found in such an entertaining adventure as the Dude finds himself. And yet The Dude for the most part remains unchanged by the escapade. He takes a passive outlook on life that can be admired in relation to most humans in the 1990s. When the Dude’s car is stolen with the ransom suitcase still inside, the Dude just walks away. The lack of action reflects that the Dude possesses a different set of values and joys than the average human. Where most people in the 1990s wanted a happy family, a good job, and a nice house the Dude just wants to drink a white Russian and go bowling. The socially gross fact that the Dude abides to his ways and is happy makes him the anti-hero of the 1990s.

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