By Caitlin Gardner
How do I explain The Big Lebowski?
Like many cult classics, the disparity of viewership in this film’s theatrical release in comparison to its post-release afterlife is immense. It barely broke even at its box office and critically puzzled many over being the Coen Brothers follow-up to Fargo. But in 2011, The Big Lebowski has become one of the most beloved Coen Brothers films, in addition to being their most off-beat piece.
So, how did this film gain a following that will come to Proctors decked out in sunglasses, oversized sweaters, bathrobes, bowling shirts, and Viking gear?
Well, The Big Lebowski takes place during the height of the Gulf War, mostly set in a bowling alley. The Stranger, the film’s narrator (Sam Elliott), introduces us to “The Dude” a.k.a. Jeff Lebowski (Jeff Bridges), “the laziest man in Los Angeles.” Unfortunately, ‘The Dude’ is mistaken for another Jeffrey Lebowski, a millionaire paraplegic, by a group of thugs who urinate on his rug during a break-in.
This case of mistaken identity sets off his correspondence with “The Big Lebowski,” whose nymphomaniac trophy wife’s kinapping sucks in “The Dude,” his bowling buddy Walt Sobchack (John Goodman), and the elder Lebowski’s performance artist daughter Maude (Julianne Moore) to figure out if this kidnapping is for real or something else entirely.
This movie is not so much plot-driven, but more of a journey. Dude’s journey happens to involve Nihilists, a pederast bowler named Jesus (pronounced the same as the ‘JC’), a spaced out pacifist bowler named Smokey, a Malibu pornographer, and getting interrogated with a ferret.
What I think can be appreciated about The Big Lebowski is that there is something for everyone. One can love the film’s one-liners like, “OVER THE LINE!,” “I DON’T ROLE ON SHABBOS!,” or the standard “THE DUDE ABIDES,” among many other great quotes.
Viewers can also appreciate the film’s structure as homage to Raymond Chandler’s hard-boiled detective/film noir classic, The Big Sleep. Or even its elements of surrealism, specifically one hysterical musical number.
Still yet, it could be the knowledge that some characters are based on real people, ranging from gun-toting Hollywood writer-director John Milius to Seattle Seven radical Jeff Dowd.
If you know nothing about this all, be a novice and discover it for the first time today at Proctors for $6 with your student ID.