A Critic's Meta Review: 5/5
The Big Lebowski (REVIEW)
I am honestly quite shocked that it has taken me so long to get around to writing this review. For, you see, there was once a point in my life in which this film was quite literally my Bible. And no, not like one of those Bibles you keep on your bedside bookshelf, delicately tucked in between Naked Lunch and Portnoy’s Complaint, to keep Aunt Jacinda happy when her and Uncle Ed come to visit for the holidays. I am talking about one of those Bibles that fundamentalist preachers run around hitting abortion doctors and male hairdressers in the head with while shouting “Repent! Repent! Repent for your sins, heathen!”
Alas, in the years since I have begun to develop a different, perhaps more stable relationship with this film that has allowed it to retain its luster without turning me into a carbon copy of The Dude (despite my luscious locks and affection for the soundtrack of the counterculture era). I no longer feel the need to drink White Russians every day, which my body has been thanking me for profusely (though my taste buds do occasionally miss the idea of a creamy cocktail for breakfast); furthermore, when I look back and think about how I was about to become a dues-paying member of a local bowling league, on the off chance that I might have the chance to roll against a creep like Jesus and show him who’s boss (not that such an outcome would necessarily be a sure thing, though, as my balls tend to find themselves more at home rolling through the gutters than against the pins they are meant to knock down), I can’t help but cringe at the potential prospect of being the only one around whose grandparents did not live during the presidency of Benjamin Harrison (who was the last U.S. President to have a beard, by the way; Harry Truman grew one, briefly - which he nicknamed the “Jeff Davis” - but it was not nearly as prominent a display on his face as it was on old Ben’s).
The way that I have now come to view this movie is the way that most sensible Christians - followers of any belief system based primarily on folklore and fables, really - have come to view The Bible: a captivating story from which many lessons can be drawn, full of characters with all types of quirky traits that sort of resemble the types of people you are bound to come across in your life - taken more seriously than it should be by some, sure, but not taken nearly as seriously as it should be by those who write it off as a bunch of nonsense meant for simple minded folk.
That being said, I am still an ordained Dudeist priest, and pretty damn proud of it (you can be one, too - it’s a pretty easy process). I would still attend Lebowski Fest in a heartbeat (post-corona, of course). And, to this day, I still take full advantage of every opportunity to throw in one of the movie’s many nuggets of dialogue gold - if only just to make myself giggle.
I sincerely hope that my reverence for this film never fades. There is a lot to be learned from the way The Dude does things, and though much has been said about the parallels between The Dude’s outlook and the approach to life espoused by folks like the Buddha and Lao-tzu (mostly by this dude - the founder of Dudeism, a religion based on the film, and an all-around good dude in his own right - who has written several books on the subject), I still feel as if both The Dude and the film that tells his story are often sold short by those who - much like the titular “Big” Lebowski - just cannot bring themselves to appreciate the beauty in life’s simplicity.
I have noticed, however, that this film has a bit of a wider appeal among a certain audience - an audience that, coincidentally, I also happen to be a part of. You see, the Coen brothers, along with one of their biggest inspirations - Bob Dylan, perhaps The Dude of all Dudes (at least in terms of the past century) - hail from the Midwest. This has resulted in a lot of their output having a sort of Midwestern sensibility that one only picks up from having grown up in the Midwest. You can’t put it on - it’s something you must earn after enduring years of brutal winters and unreasonably polite social interactions. To those who have not spent much time in the Midwest, it can be a bit off-putting and quite hard to make heads or tails of; this is especially true for those from the more hustling, bustling parts of the country, who are used to a much more straightforward way of doing things.
Despite all of their best intentions to shed this strange Midwestern-ness, like setting a film in LA, building a career in NYC, or working from home in DC, neither the Coens, Dylan, nor I have been able to shake it off of us.
It’s like a giant tattoo of a smiley face that says “ope” every time someone nudges against it.