The Big Lebowski is a big fucking mindfuck.
Perhaps later I’ll appreciate the cleverness, but right now I feel as if I have been hosed, that as the audience, I am the schmuck. People naturally look for patterns and narrative, and over the course of the film, I was struggling to cobble together a unifying theory as the Coen brothers pile more and more impossible facts and coincidences. I’ve watched L.A. Confidential and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang in the past two weeks, and The Big Lebowski is their smarter, deadbeat uncle. In a mystery, there are no coincidences, but The Big Lebowski is comprised entirely of them.
So, it is frustrating to expend all this energy and listen to all Walter Sobchak’s (John Goodman) Vietnam stories to realize that you’re just part of the Dude’s aimless ramble that has a lot of interesting bits but adds up to a whole lotta nothing. It’s like Steve Buscemi’s character, Theodore Donald “Donny” Kerabatsos, constantly trying to gain access to Goodman’s non sequitur stream of consciousness. It is a joyride that ultimately has no destination. And sometimes some people enjoy these little jaunts…even in the minds of middle aged losers who live and die for bowling league games.
The Big Lebowski is a movie that obviously has merit. It is carefully crafted with purposeful dialogue and a cadre of well-trained actors. It has artsy absurdist sequences. I can see why a lot of people love this movie, but the gradual decline of the Dude’s car and home is a metaphor for my regards to the movie.
This is not a movie about the world’s best and brightest; it does not contain brave or noble or even especially self-aware characters. It is a film about the mediocre, the mundane, and the silly people who put on airs. In terms of productive output to society, it is about shitty people. Yes, Jeff Bridges’ the Dude is a worthless shithead with a head fried with weed…but so is everyone else. If it’s not the weed, it’s the Vietnam War or just life.
The only man who stands alone is the enigmatic cowboy (Sam Elliott) who claims this is an interesting story. Yes, it is interesting. There is the analytical part of my brain that is still moving around the puzzle pieces, but my gut reaction is frustration and anger. This would be much better enjoyed after a few beers and some philosophical conversation.