To be confronted by the image of a man named ‘Jesus’ bending over and devilishly licking a bowling ball in slow motion whilst ‘Hotel California’ echoes in the background is not commonplace in cinema. Likewise, viewing a voluptuous, naked woman as she swings through a room, hanging by a harness, splattering paint onto a giant canvas is probably a first for the majority of the audience. Watching The Big Lebowski may sometimes feel like a drug trip gone wrong, and yet by the end of this iconic Coen brothers film, it’s so, so right.
Nevertheless, it has to be questioned just how much pot they were smoking when they conceived such a warped, even frivolous plot. It all starts with a rug that’s been mistakenly pissed on. The central character, nicknamed ‘The Dude’, is at the core of a series of unlikely events, and though at first he is most concerned about his soiled rug, he ends up facing a series of life or death decisions.
The dialogue is infamous. Line after line of strangely realistic conversation is reeled off by characters who don’t even seem to like each other, and yet their tight friendship is unmistakable. Every other word is a curse, and yet it isn’t forced. By the time a character (as in the aforementioned swinging naked woman) asks “Do you like sex, Mr. Lebowski?”, it’s not shocking or scandalous. You’ll be deeply enthralled by what’s going on, even if you don’t understand all of it. The humour is dark and twisted, and, like a trapdoor spider lurching out at its prey, fits of giggles will overcome you when you least expect them.
Added to this heady mix is a collection of some of the best cult actors. Jeff Bridges, John Goodman Steve Buscemi, they’re all here, three guys fumbling along and mixed up in something much bigger than them. Goodman is horrifyingly strange as the Dude’s best friend, waving guns around in the bowling alley and raving about the Sabbath. And Buscemi is there every step of the way, asking all the questions the viewers want answered. Add a few nihilists and a bloodied toe sent in the post, and what could go wrong?
If you’re like me and you’ve just read this article feeling incredibly bewildered (and perhaps slightly turned on), don’t worry. Actually, don’t even think about it. Take my word for it – The Big Lebowski is one of the best films of all time. I guarantee you’ll be down the bowling alley straight afterwards.