“The Dude Abides”…Well, No, But I try

I watched “The Big Lebowski” for the third or fourth time with my father last night, what an unbelievably good film. A Jeff Bridges American Masters documentary had been on PBS a few nights before (cut off in the middle by the Blizzard of 2011 robbing us of our power). The documentary obviously featured a few comments on Jeff Bridges most famous movie, and my dad said to me, “which is good, but of course a little overrated”. By the end of the film, my father was singing a much different tune.

Walter (played by John Goodman) bellowing things like, “The Chinaman is not the issue here!” and “you mark that frame and you’re entering a world of pain”, emptying Donny’s ashes from a Folgers coffee can that he bought at Ralphs all over the Dude, and constantly bringing up his “friends that died face down in the muck” in Vietnam is the highlight of the film. His energy ties all the characters together, and just like Sam in The Lord of the Rings, the film is almost more about Walter than it is about the Dude. He is working through his trauma from his time in Vietnam and a divorce from his wife. Walter is the catalyst, the tide that moves it all along, especially because he continually makes the worst decisions of anybody in the film (and that is saying a lot), misguided choices that propel one error into another, “the human comedy perpetuating itself”, until the steam train of errors can finally creak to a stop at the bowling alley. That is not to downplay Jeff Bridges performance, whose acting while getting thrown into a limousine saying “Careful man! There’s a beverage here!” is enough to keep me smiling for a few days. I saw a Coen brothers interview once where they spoke about their directing of Jeff, “he would come up to us before a scene and ask, ‘you think the Dude sparked one up on the way over here?’ And if we said yes, he would go over in the corner and rub his eyes until they were all red, then do the scene. That’s about all the directing we had to do for Jeff.”

Sam Elliot, who along with Alec Baldwin has one of the all-time great voices (Morgan Freeman not included, fuck Morgan Freeman), is perfect. “I don’t know about you, but I take comfort in that, knowing that the Dude is out there taking it easy for all us sinners”—if only it were that simple right? Though maybe it is, we all have a bit of the Dude in us, we just have to let him out for a little play time now and again. “The Dude abides”—you have got to love that, and I know you do. Apart from the occasional recreational drug use and cross-faded driving, Jeff Lebowski does abide, as we all should.

Julianne Moore is good (and dare I say, pretty attractive). It is creepy to me seeing a very thin David Thewlis as Knox Harrington, the video artist, because all of a sudden it occurred to me that he was Remus in the Harry Potter films, a role I had always enjoyed him in.

The soundtrack, from Bob Dylan’s charming “The Man in Me” to Townes Van Zandt’s cover of “Dead Flowers” is simultaneously heartfelt, psychedelic, and just straight up pleasant to hear. The Coen brothers sure as hell know what they’re doing. I would highly recommend another Coen Brothers picture, “Barton Fink”, to anybody who wants to see the best performance of John Goodman’s career in a fascinatingly dark psychological film. It may seem a little slow or overly strange at times, but in the end that movie is one of my absolute favorites. Anybody who knows anything about “getting all balled up at the head office” needs to see this one.

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Published in: on January 15, 2011 at 11:27 am  Leave a Comment  
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