I was younger then. A sprat in the great garden of life. This movie, so many said, is the funniest thing since Duck Soup. It’s got a dash of Beckett and a smearing of the Muppets! Nobody said that, but that’s the praise that floated about for the cult classic known as the Big Lebowski. It was both highbrow indie art secret inner circle fare AND a lowbrowish fart joke, boobies out, lots of cussing lowest common denominator sorta popcorn flick. I sat through it, young sprat that I was, and went…eh.
Jeff Bridges, one of my favorite actor type people, shuffled through this trainwreck of a movie where nothing happened and he got a rug and then it ended. Or did he get his rug back? Ugh!
Also, this guy Bridges played whined like a stepped on puppy the entire six hours of this movie! How many hours was the Big Lebowski?? Ugh times two. I liked the music. Yep. That was what I basically took away from this Coen effort. The music was okay. I had no desire to watch the Dude shuffle through Los Angeles scenarios like a bewildered whiny, well, Fozzy Bear. [Which is probably not quite the right Muppet.]
Fade in, years later–
I’m at the Idaho Youth Ranch. It’s a local thrift store, right next to the Canned Food store. Which, if you don’t know, is a bargain basement sorta discount grocery outlet joint. Cheap, past the date stuff, cleaning products, VO5 shampoo.
So! There I am, at the Idaho Youth Ranch, plucking through the VHS tapes. Which are, like fifty cents or so. The DVD’s are, like, two bucks or so. Just so you get an idea of price range and options. The paperbacks go for about fifty cents or so, hardbacks a dollar or so…mostly because they have stacks and stacks of books, not because they’re trying to save YOU, THE CONSUMER, any cash. As the books used to be quite pricey which is why they didn’t move very many of them…so, the commies win that one. Dang commies. Anyhoo!
There it is. The Big Lebowski. In a battered VHS jacket. A rather comfortable gold-ish hue.
Eh, I figure. Why not. I can have it on in the background as I…write. It’s cheap. Jeff Bridges is in it. [I might have a bit of a crush on Mr. Bridges. Don’t tell anyone.]
I have my VHS/DVD combo hooked up to my truly ancient Sanyo at home. I have since had to unhook that and replace it with a DVD player, bought at the Idaho Youth Ranch. Fifteen bucks. I was rolling in dough back then.
And thus begins the second phase of my Big Lebowski Spring Awakening minor epiphany.
The Dude. Everyman sort of character, wandering through a rather Apocalyptic ***if you use this term three times in a single document, Jesus shows up and tells you ‘No butt stuff, go Patriots!’ before returning to heaven–I heard this on Fox News, hand to Satan*** vision of Los Angeles, encountering devils and angels in his simple quest to replace his rug.
He doesn’t change a whit. Not a single lesson doth he learn. He doesn’t go on any sort of inner spiritual journey, which is the damn hallmark and actual lodestone of Western Lit and Western filmmaking. The Dude ‘abides’, which is the famous quotable quote from this film. From being attacked by a ferret in the bath to his friend dropping dead to a snit fit over the Eagles, he abides. He abides. That’s, as I’ve pointed out earlier, rather radical storytelling.
As who has not been taught that ‘something’ has to happen, when telling a tale of some kind? Remember those writing classes, kiddies? I barely do! But I’m no longer a sprat. I’m a gone to seed faded sprout! Sad face. Big sad face here.
Are we not lectured on the arc of a story? We start here at X, something happens, there’s a climax, the end. We assume the hero [rarely the heroine] learns something or is changed in some way, for the better. The hero changes. Something happens. Stuff adds up at the end. There’s a reason for why that stuff happened.
The Big Lebowski says nuts to that.
Which is probably why I went, eh, and didn’t embrace its laid back radicalism. After all, some guy having absurd encounters while taking time now and then to bowl– just not my cup of sarsaparilla. I have plebian tastes in movies, I like em simple. Things blow up, stuff happens, things blow up, big speech, things blow up, the end.
Back to the BL!!
Storytelling. Ah. BL says nuts to traditional ways and means to tell a story. What is the story here, in BL? Is it about a rug? About the Dude? About consumerism? About porn? About Vietnam? Conservative versus liberal? White Russians are the bomb? Is there a story here? Isn’t Sam Elliot dreamy? That voice! Like rough velvet and those twinkly blue eyes!
I might have a bit of a crush on Sam Elliot, too. Oh gosh, I’m revealing so much of myself with this post. Damn it.
I just know that if I turned in something like the Big Lebowski to a writing teacher, I’d have been told to rewrite it so that ‘something happened’ and there was a pay off of some kind. Or not. They, those that taught various writing classes and such, might have just shrugged, given me a passing grade so as not to deal with me further and forgotten my efforts entirely.
Now, I’ve seen Fargo. And the Coen remake of the John Wayne magnum opus, True Grit. Which, to me, didn’t quite fire on all cylinders. There was something lacking in it. It had gorgeous scenery, the acting was okay…eh. I can rewatch it and not get sick. So, yeah.
I’ve enjoyed the comedy stylings– O Brother Where Art Thou. We thought you were a toad! I thought they did a bang up job with No Country For Old Men. [That hair cut!! That hair cut gave me nightmares. Now that’s a film.]
I didn’t ‘get’ the Big Lebowki until I’d lived a bit. Until, like the Dude, I’d been tossed about by a truly indifferent life and thrown away to root, hog or die. I get it now. It’s…yeah. There’s no reason for any of this and then the credits roll. Yep. The BL is a metaphor for life itself. Gag me with a spoon, rightio? I should leave my house once in a while?? You get born, you live, you do a lot of drugs, you go bowling, you do stuff that doesn’t pan out, then you die. Amen.
I can go on in this vein for some time. That it’s all for nothing. You strive like a motherfucker, do most of it right, die anyway and…we don’t ever find out if what you did was all worth a hill of beans during a shitstorm. The Dude drinks his White Russians, grieves over his rug which brought the room together and bowls with his buddies, and he’s happy. He complains, but he’s generally a content sort without too much worry or stress. He’s that guy who drifts on life’s waters and bumps gently up against this or that with no real visible damage. And don’t we all know one of those sorts? That floating through life like a balloon sorta person? They just nudge and bounce against the walls and ceiling and then find a way out into the sky through an open window. And float away with a ‘well, fuck me, look at that’ smile of beautified indifference for it all.
So maybe, we watching are the story. Maybe we’re the journey. Which is a bit uncomfortable and high-falutin’. Maybe the BL is performance art! Talk about being precious and elitist! Probably communist, as well.
“They” were screeching about commies elsewhere, as the fear of commies under every bed is back with a bullet, baby!– this morn. So I find myself grinning and including commie references into this rambling take of the Coen Brothers ode to bowling, rugs and abiding dudes.