“That rug really tied the room together.”
You’d be hard-pressed to find a movie that sums up the 90s better than The Big Lebowski. Jeff Lebowski, better known as The Dude, is the ultimate 90s anti-hero, with his relaxed demeanor, refusal to engage in productive society, and devil-may-care attitude. This movie, directed by the Coen Brothers (No Country for Old Men, Fargo) and starring Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, and Julianne Moore, is also one of the funniest (and most quotable) movies I’ve ever seen.
The plot follows The Dude as he becomes embroiled in a kidnapping scheme with powers far above his head. He’s asked by a rich man to act as the courier to transfer the money in return for his wife’s safe return. When his boneheaded friend Walter screws this up, things begin to spiral out of control with many affluent forces fighting and The Dude stuck in the middle. There’s actually a fairly competent mystery baked into this movie, but the focus is definitely on the character of The Dude and his life.
Sometimes, there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that’s the Dude, in Los Angeles.
The humor is the best part of The Big Lebowski, but it’s not simply comical—it’s biting satire as well. The movie is a perfect little microcosm of the American sociopolitical stage in the 90s, reminiscent of the old Medieval morality plays. The Dude serves as a working class everyman who sums up what many Americans were feeling in the late 90s. We also have other distinctly American 90s archetypes, such as the angry, out-of-touch patriot who lives in the past, the rich conservative who accuses the unemployed of being lazy bums, the pedantic liberal artist who is also strangely out of touch with The Dude, and even a creepy pedophile representative of Christianity. And most of these archetypes constantly heap abuse on our working class everyman, who seems to suffer whenever anybody above his head acts. Yet even with so many odds stacked against him, The Dude abides.
Despite serious undertones, the movie is consistently laugh-out-loud funny and extremely irreverent. The base message of, “Life is crap, let’s go bowling” is somehow very endearing, and you really can’t help but love The Dude, even as he struggles to get by without doing anything to contribute to society. And the jokes are smart and funny without hurting the plot or characters. In fact, sometimes the characters themselves are a joke—the character of Walter is a joke almost every American can relate to.
I regard The Big Lebowski as one of the best comedies of all time. Bear in mind that this movie is not for kids, and some adults may even find it offensive. But the brilliance of the writing is undeniable—this is smart comedy, and it’s very accessible as well. If you’re sick of bland Hollywood comedies, this is the antidote.
Director: Coen Brothers