What do you get when you put an old shabby robe on a man, give him a glass of White Russian, and send him bowling? Classic Dude, Dudeer, El Chuvacino, whatever you like.
The protagonist of the movie “The Big Lebowski” – The Dude, played by Jeff Bridges – has become a cult character and occupies an important place in modern culture. With one left, Lebowski created a new religion, Dudaism, and with the right, he easily changed the stereotypically sexist view of the seemingly “feminine” White Russian cocktail by making it brutally masculine. No special skills are required to create the dude’s favorite drink, just mix vodka, cream and coffee liqueur.
Ethan and Joel Coen decided not to limit themselves to three ingredients and mixed up a bit of everything in their hard-hitting film: classic idiot characters, absurdly philosophical dialogues, 60s stylistics, politics, feminism, sociology, religion – all this under a syrup of profanity with diced light eroticism.
The cult comedy by screenwriting brothers Ethan and Joel Coen, released in 1998, rolled tentatively in the bowling alley, striking out a few years later. Critics met the Coens’ picture coolly, and online publications branded the comedy as their worst work. Critics were dissatisfied with a large amount of obscene language, which, in their opinion, the brothers-writers patched up the holes in the dialogues. Nevertheless, Lebowski managed to gather an army of fan-followers around him, and the film itself was hailed as the first cult film of the Internet era.
Despite the attention to political and social life in the U.S., the Dude’s story, quite like such a phenomenon as online casinos, CasinoChan in particular, is loved and understood all over the world. This is evidenced by the annual Lebowski festivals and even the emergence of a new philosophical doctrine based on the image and thinking of the main character.
The style of the film revolves not only around the carpet, which set the style of the entire room in the protagonist’s apartment. The old shabby robe, the smell of which, if you turn on your imagination, you can smell through the screen, the laundered clothes meant for home use, the sandals, the hairpin that removes Dude’s curls – no need to pay tribute to costumes here – are all elements of Jeff Bridges’ own closet.
The basis of the visual component of the picture lies in the main location, the bowling alley, which provided the film with an important component of retro style. According to Joel Cohen, bowling acted as an anachronism of an era not so distant, but still irrevocably gone. Nevertheless, the directors tried to avoid the standard retro clichés of the ’60s, for example, it was decided not to use posters with fluorescent paint and gel fixtures. Instead, the decor of the film was made up of furniture from the 50s and 60s, and most importantly, the shapeless neon stars, which are the main motif of the bowling alley interior and are also found in Dude’s dreams.
The musical part of the film is of particular importance, in some scenes it aims to better reveal the plot and signify the joke. The Eagles sounding in the cab, for example, breaks down racial stereotypes, and the Metallica reference adds to the intimate setting with farce and incongruity. Each character is assigned a different musical theme to better reflect their personality traits. For Dude, the Coens chose Creedence, the narrator got Bob Nolan, and the German nihilist Nazis got techno-pop.
The political ingredient of Lebowski tries to fill almost half of the entire movie. Dude’s story takes place in the early ’90s, a time of conflict with Sadaam and the Iroquois. About the Persian Gulf War, Dude and his friends talk about it while sprawled out on a couch in a bowling alley. By touching on a major world conflict, the Coens probably didn’t intend to generate much discussion about it inside or outside the film. Rather, the need for this reference was intended to show the viewer the Dude’s involvement (or rather lack of involvement) in world affairs.
Through the mention of political events, it becomes clear that the Dude, who lives by the canons of hip-partisanship and pissing off, doesn’t care about big issues. The pissed carpet that sets the style of the whole room is what the protagonist cares about.
The other character, Walter Sobchak (John Goodman), a Vietnam War veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, on the other hand, cares about everything that happens in the world. The truth is only in words, in practice Sobchak does not lift a finger, especially on Shabbat. Tolerance towards the Americans of “non-American” race was ironically played by Coens at the very suggestion of Walter who called the main person guilty of spoiling the carpet an Asian-American. And there are plenty of such minor details in the film. The Coens were never afraid to use absurd jokes. What to say, even the Nazis in The Big Lebowski are portrayed as nihilistic, dysfunctional pornographers.
The film reveals the problem of the main character’s lifestyle not conforming to society’s established social norms. By focusing on the philosophy of nihilism and sodomy, the Coens endowed the main character with a worldview that, if not questioning questions of morality, establishes its own canons of behavior that differ from the accepted ones.
Dude’s philosophy of hedonism is based on drinking alcohol at all hours of the day and refusing to work or wear normal clothes. Dude, however, does not deny moral issues or question ideals, as does Walter Sobchak, whose principles and ideals prevent him from living properly, even though he is convinced of the opposite.
The film’s action coincides not only with the world’s political conflicts but also fell on the rise of the third wave of feminism, which began in the early 1990s in the United States. The Coens decided not to lose sight of feminists and endowed the film’s female protagonist, Maude Lebowski (Julianne Moore), with sharply feministic views. As is typical of third-wave feminists, Moore’s heroine is not ashamed of her body but uses sexuality as a tool to liberate women, so she wears a robe over her naked body. In addition, feminism of the time was heavily influenced by micropolitics, which is why Maude Lebowski (rightly or wrongly) believes that she is the head of her father’s company (that very Big Lebowski). In the course of the plot, there is no unequivocal answer to the question of who is the boss in the house, the only thing that is clear is that by playing up the situation as formal male domination under the real leadership of a woman, the Coens hit the feminists right in the heart. The screenwriting brothers seem to have dived headfirst into the issues of female discrimination and feminist struggles of the time. What message the Coens originally intended is not entirely clear. If it is an ironic mockery of women fighting for their rights, it came out lubricated, and the feminist played by Julianne Moore looks like an adherent of adequacy against the other characters.
The film’s casual sexuality is revealed in the opening credits when Julianne Moore’s name appears as the right fingers enter the bowling ball holes. For those who didn’t notice it, the Coens had a similar “finger-ball” scene in Dude’s illusion of imagining himself as the hero of the porn movie “Keglebit Force.” In this dream, by the way, it’s not just about balls. Bridges, in this scene, hovers beneath the skirts of the dancers, rewarding his character with a strange smile. If you believe the story told by Jeff himself, the actresses who played the dancers decided to play a joke on him with the wigs hidden in his underwear. Of course, the viewer doesn’t see any artificial hair sticking out from underneath his panties, but the embarrassingly weird look on Brigess’ face in that scene makes you believe the story.
There is a lot of sex in the movie, but it is not shown literally, the viewer is left to guess. The Coens have paid special attention here to the porn industry, endowing most of the minor characters with involvement in this type of creativity. Little details with a hint of eroticism can be noticed as the film progresses. Or you might not. The Coens shoot sex easily, naturally and even mockingly. One thing is clear, in “The Big Lebowski” Ethan and Joel managed to maintain a balance between outright lewdness and casual hints of vulgarity.
The religious portion of the Coens’ cocktail is divided into several constituent parts. Dude’s religion is not revealed, but the comic views of his bowling buddy Walter Sobchak are given a fraction of the screen time. A Polish Catholic, Walter is influenced by his Jewish ex-wife to adhere to the traditions of Judaism. Sobchak flatly refuses to play Shabbat or even approach the phone. In contrast to Walter, the Coens have added a psychotic Jesus to the plot, who observes no Sabbath and only holds his hands out to show eight-year-olds his genitals and uses threatening sexual metaphors in his speech. The Coens, for whom there are no taboo subjects for irony, emphasize here the hyperbole of the religious issue without openly mocking the feelings of believers.
Seven years after the film’s release, an entire religious movement, Dudaism (dude), has taken shape based on the main character’s worldview and behavior. Dudaism calls for acting like a dude, which means just going with the flow and not worrying about nothing, appreciating the small joys of life and getting pleasure out of simple activities like bowling with friends. The Dudaists themselves put special emphasis on the fact that this is their religion – it is not some kind of joke, everything is quite serious. The official organization of the Dudaists currently bears the proud title “Church of the Latter Day Dude.
The Coen Brothers cocktail called “The Big Lebowski” includes a lot of ingredients, the combination of which adds a subtle touch to the picture and leaves a pleasant aftertaste. “The Big Lebowski” is not a shot, but a long drink to be savored and enjoyed every minute of it.