This movie is weird. Like, really weird. I have seen my share of movies, many of which are weird, but this one is utterly bizarre. Never have I seen a film where a naked woman, dangling by a system of pulleys, assaults a canvas with paint to create a “masterpiece”.
Never have I seen a film where a man is fueled to get a new rug after another man urinates on his old rug. Never have I heard that the rug “tied the room together”.
That all changed when I saw “The Big Lebowski”. Directed by the Coen brothers (Joel and Ethan) have directed classics such as “Fargo”, “Miller’s Crossing”, and “No Country for Old Men”, all of which are considered masterpieces of cinema. “The Big Lebowski” is not shy of a masterpiece, but is strange.
As with their other films, “The Big Lebowski” harbors a unique plot and odd character that come together to make a unique film experience.
Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) is a Los Angeles slacker who indulges in bowling, pot and White Russians. Despite his Laissez-Faire attitude towards life, The Dude has gotten himself into trouble with a local loan shark, Jackie Treehorn.
Remember that rug I mentioned? Yeah, that is essentially the driving force the film’s events. While being beaten by Jackie’s goons, one of them urinates on his prized rug that “tied the room together”. Like I said, this film is strange.
Following the attack, The Dude goes out to bowl. There he meets his two friends; Donny Kerabatsos (Steve Buscemi) and the rage-filled Vietnam vet Walter Sobchak (John Goodman).
Since the film’s release in 1998, “The Big Lebowski” has received critical praise for its story, unique characters and black comedy. The film has also amassed a large cult following, with many of the followers adhering to a religion called “Dudeism”.
Founded by Oliver Benjamin in 2005, “Dudeism” is the practice of a “dude lifestyle” as shown by The Dude in the film. You heard me right, this film has spawned an actual religion.
While considered a “mock religion”, its followers take it seriously and adhere closely to its teachings. Said teachings involve Taoism, which is an old Chinese belief that centers on a life lived in harmony.
“Dudeism” also includes the the writings of ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, which are the steps to living a happy, and tranquil life.
The religion is formerly known as “The Church of the Latter-Day Dude”, and has an estimated 350,000 avid followers as of August 2016.
As personified by The Dude in the film, it is easy to see why so many people follow this lifestyle. In short, no matter what happens in the film, The Dude is always calm, cool and reasonably collected.
In a twist, it is revealed that the men who beat up The Dude had the wrong Jeffrey Lebowski. Now dubbed “The Big Lebowski”, The Dude and Walter head out to meet the the wheelchair bound millionaire.
Together, Walter and The Dude craft a plan to kidnap Lebowski’s young trophy wife, Bunny (Tara Reid), for a ransom of a million dollars.
Without giving more away, the rest of the film follows a hilarious and outlandish storyline that is far different from any other film
The Coen brothers have a knack for unique storytelling; often place massive amounts on small details and developing their characters.
I have long been a fan of the Coen’s work, with “Fargo” being in my top ten favorite films. “The Big Lebowski” is strange, but it does not fall flat on the grand scale of excellence that the two have crafted in the decades they have been in Hollywood.
One of the biggest driving factors of the film is the unusual narration by “The Stranger” (Sam Elliott). Adorned in a cowboy outfit, The Stranger narrates the film’s events and even meets with The Dude a few times in the film.
It is an unusual plot device but it works well with the story and script. The Coen brothers both noted Elliott’s odd use in the film in a 2010 interview. Nevertheless, it makes the film even better.
It is odd, funny, dark and rather dumb, but through it all, it is remarkably beautiful. Please, watch this weird film. Go out bowling and fall into the wonders of Dudeism. You won’t regret it.