“The Dude abides.”
These profound words we hear in the film “The Big Lebowski” from Oscar-winner Jeff Bridges’ character, who refers to himself as “the Dude,” sums up a defining philosophy in this cult classic.
The Dude lives his life by simply existing, continuing and persisting through the “strikes and gutters, ups and downs,” occasionally stopping for a joint in the bathtub or to enjoy a White Russian. This philosophy, combined with an unstable Vietnam veteran, a trash talking Latino bowling opponent and German nihilist kidnappers create a deranged plot line. Simply put, it’s comedy at its most original.
A mistaken case of identity puts the Dude in contact with a paraplegic millionaire, Jeffery Lebowski, who hires the Dude to drop off ransom money in order to save his trophy wife who has supposedly been kidnapped. When Walter, the Dude’s Vietnam obsessed best friend and bowling partner, decides to keep the ransom money instead of dropping it off to the kidnappers, a turn of events leaves the Dude in a world of danger and trouble as he is threatened with castration from German nihilists and seduced by Lebowski’s sister.
During the film the Dude merely smokes, drinks and bowls his way through an extremely difficult situation. While Bridges’ character is a laid back, unemployed, non-materialistic man who lives by the words “Take it easy,” he does not lack intelligence as he figures out a complex crime situation in which he is the victim of exploitation.
The comedy displayed in the film is dry, yet brilliant. It has an originality that is difficult to find in a genre that can produce a lack of intelligence and dullness in many films. The comedy in “The Big Lebowski” has obscure, hilarious one-liners, but the nature of the film and the situations the characters are faced with is what makes this movie so original and comedic.
Furthermore, the cast of actors brings each character originality and depth. Walter is John Goodman’s most memorable role, while Bridges is immortalized as the Dude. Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays a minor, yet unforgettable role as a servant who tries to please everybody and Steve Buscemi stars as “Donny,” a quiet, but essential role as the other bowling partner who dies from a heart attack.
“The Big Lebowski” has become a cult classic through its hidden philosophical nature and through the attractiveness of the Dude’s lifestyle, among other reasons. Lines like “Life doesn’t start and stop at your convenience,” ring true in the minds of many. This notion of going with the flow can be an attractive, peaceful way to deal with life’s problems. If a middle-aged, unemployed stoner can be happy in life by simply bowling and going with the flow, there is hope for us all.
The film’s popularity and influence on culture spans to many different groups of people. The film is memorialized through “Lebowski Fest,” a two-day event where fans of the movie gather to drink White Russians, watch the film and bowl. Yet, the Dude’s philosophies have expanded into a more spiritual realm through the religion of Dudeism. This online religion uses the beliefs and lifestyle of the Dude as a tenant for spiritual exploration. Anyone can be an ordained minister of the Church of the Latter-Day Dude. The impact of Joel and Ethan Cohen’s film is immense and will live on through all of those who love the Dude for going with the flow.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Davis Brown at Brownfd@colorado.edu.