Why ‘The Big Lebowski’ is the perfect New Year’s Day movie

"I can't be worried about that shit man. Life goes on."
“I can’t be worried about that shit man. Life goes on.”

I’ve got certain information, man.

Yet another year has come and gone and here we are, anticipating with bated breath the surprises 2017 has in store for us. 2016 was not such a great year for me – well, not all of it – but somehow I managed to survive. Made some great new friends and that made things a little less daunting and tolerable. And I found out that most of the people I knew felt the same way. Congratulations to everyone who survived – I mean, how many of you actually thought they could make it past 2016?

Good thing we have music, books and, above all, movies to preserve our sanity. Where else would we be without them, eh? There are some movies that we immediately reach for when we are feeling the blues. For some, it’s a comedy while some others prefer something dark and morbid. Different strokes for different folks. Each one of us has our own form of therapy. I prefer the former on most occasions. The one at the very top of the list is, of course, the Coen Brothers’ masterpiece The Big Lebowski.

Endlessly quotable and compulsively watchable, I couldn’t have picked a better movie to start my New Year with. I think it’s the perfect New Year movie. The reasons are many. Some of you – the die-hard fans of this movie – may already know what they are. I might be putting the exact thoughts that are in your head into this piece. But I’m also writing this for those who have not been introduced to this gem yet. Watching this movie is like being in the presence of two completely chilled out dudes. It makes me forget all my troubles.

If there is one movie that advocates, more so than any other, that we should forge ahead no matter what adversities come our way, it’s this one. What I loved most about it is its philosophy: Dude-ism. The basic essence of this philosophy? Simple: Life goes on. As Roger Ebert rightly stated, “It’s about an attitude, not a story”. It’s about few characters chose to adopt a certain attitude in the face of some absurd elements. I bet Matthew McConaughey’s character ‘Wooderson’ from Dazed and Confused – “You just gotta keep livin’ man, L-I-V-I-N.” – would get a massive kick out of this movie.

Take Jeff Bridges’ character Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski, for instance. First, two guys barge into his house without even bothering to check if it belonged to a millionaire who also went by the same name and hassles him for money. Next, he is asked to handle a complicated kidnapping situation, for the same millionaire he was mistaken for earlier. This situation gets royally screwed up after his buddy Walter (John Goodman) decides to get involved. And then he gets sermons from Walter on giving zero fucks to such – in his view – trivial matters. As if this was not enough, The Dude gets his car stolen later and in addition to that, gets threatened by the same crackpots who were behind the kidnapping.

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Then there is the millionaire daughter (played by Julianne Moore) who has some twisted plans of her own. In the middle of all this is The Dude who has no idea how and why he ended up there – he is like an unwitting subject in a major scientific experiment. But despite going through all of this, and despite getting frustrated on multiple occasions, he manages to keep a clear head and forge ahead. These are eccentric characters but they are immensely likable, even Walter. Sure, Walter can be stupid and reckless at times but what’s admirable about him is his “take no shit” attitude. He used to be a Vietnam vet.

The Dude goes from one bizarre situation (and character) to another. The Coen Brothers’ adoration for Raymond Chandler stories and particularly film noir, is easily evident here. Their story follows the same pattern as those except that the protagonist here is not a private detective but a jobless, clueless bum. But he is surprisingly quite smart and has an arsenal full of sharp wit. And he is not easily intimidated or embarrassed. When the millionaire calls him a bum and repeatedly bellows, “The bums always lose!” he is least bothered and nonchalantly makes his getaway with one of his priced rugs.

He has more in common with the Phillip Marlowe (the hero in Chandler’s books) from John Huston’s The Long Goodbye than he does with the other interpretations of that character. The Dude possesses the same aura and mythical quality that Clint Eastwood’s nameless character from Sergio Leone’s “Dollars” trilogy does but in a different way. Both characters have now become as iconic as the other. Apparently, the Coen Brothers based the character on a real man named Jeff Dowd. Ebert knew him too and pointed out some similarities in his review.

You wish you could spend a lot of time in their company – bowling and talking some random shit. You would like to tell them your troubles and get some comforting advice in return. You want to know how these guys deal with all their problems. And listening to Walter talk about his Vietnam experiences doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. You want to hear about The Dude’s past too but he doesn’t seem like the sort of guy who thinks too much about the past (or the future). I bet he’ll say, “Fuck the past, man. Just live in the present, man.”

 

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