Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Essentials- "The Big Lebowski"

The Essentials-#23

The Big Lebowski
I knew sooner or later, I'd write about this movie.

This is a movie that is completely hard to resist, a movie that forced me to change my life. A movie that challenges and/or confirms my beliefs of life. It is also a movie that is a pleasure, and makes me laugh each time I watch it. It has a cunning style that is impossible to resist. It brought to life by a wonderful ensemble and I love it so much that I anticipate it. I am talking, of course, about "The Big Lebowski."

"The Big Lebowski" became a cult favorite not because it was funny, it became a cult favorite because there isn't another comedy like it on the planet. It may seem odd because, for the most part, "The Big Lebowski" is mainly a offbeat comedy. That isn't exactly a type of comedy that fashions mass appeal. However, the film is so confident, so in love with itself and so full of astounding energy that the mainstream embraced it. Its a relief that it had such a strong rebirth after not being in theaters that long, a norm for most offbeat comedies. So why did "The Big Lebowski" work for so many people when it reached home video?

Well for one thing home video brings much attention to the masses worldwide. That continues even today with Netflix, Redbox and Amazon. The reason it resonated I think is simpler that expected. There are many keys to successful filmmaking. I think one of those keys is writing a great character then cast the right person to bring them to life. I have spoke before about how a few or even one performance can carry a film a long way. I think the clever, witty writing of The Dude, plus casting Jeff Bridges to play The Dude, led to the success of this movie. The Dude is like Darth Vader, Indiana Jones, and Sam Spade. Those characters live on because they are unforgettable and only those specific actors could have played them. The Dude is that powerful of a creation. Only The Dude would be nonchalant about people breaking into his house numerous times, only The Dude wouldn't worry about being unemployed, only The Dude wouldn't be that mad about not being paid half a million dollars on-time. He's quite the character, and I don't think another actor in this universe could have brought him to life like Jeff Bridges. I don't think there is a real explanation for why Bridges is so good, I just think that this was always meant to be. The character was based upon Joel and Ethan Coen, the films writers and directors, friend in real life. What a guy he must be.

If Jeff Bridges was the only good part of this movie, that would be enough to write about. Thankfully, "The Big Lebowski" is full of memorable, great performances. John Goodman and Steve Buscemi play Walter and Donny, The Dude two best friends. Julianne Moore plays Maude, a character whose true intentions are tough to place. Even John Turturro, Flea from "Red Hot Chili Peppers," Peter Storemare, Tara Reid, Sam Elliot and Philip Seymour Hoffman even make an appearance. This is a pretty decent cast, all doing top-notch work. Everyone deserving credit.

Whats interesting is that the story, despite all of its actor work, is a very simple "whodunit" mystery mixed with a play on duel identities. What makes the film funny too is that a lot of the revelations of the film lead nowhere. That's okay, the audience has so much fun on the ride to figure the movie out that it doesn't matter. This movie really proves how confidence can work for your film. Plus, enough of the film is resolved that a couple plot threads don't hurt the overall enjoyment of the film.

What I truly love about "The Big Lebowski" is that it is a film that could have easily been a clunker. I mentioned the unpopular offbeat humor to the film. I mentioned not everything gets resolved and some moments don't make sense. There is some nudity in the film, it is filled to the brim with profanity, there is lots of drug use. Yet none of it matters because the film makes up for everything with great fun and great performances. I've been sold since I first saw it, and I think I'll be sold my whole life. I hope if you haven't yet picked this one up. Turn it on, crank it loud, it will surprise you. 

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