There’s something very soothing about watching The Big Lebowksi. It just flows through you calmly and carries you away on its aloof journey through a bizarre underbelly of Los Angeles. The central plot of the movie is essentially pointless, but its more of a spiritual journey, coming to the realization that none of it matters, or potentially all of it matters. Heavy stuff dude.
I used to not like this movie, mainly because of the cult status it had obtained among obnoxious college students and weed enthusiasts. The movie was so over-associated with Lebowksi’s drug use that nothing else from the movie was remembered except that The Dude was a guy that liked to get hiiiiggghh.
It also kind of undermines Lebowski’s journey throughout the film. At the beginning, he is a man of zen, at peace with himself and his Creedence tape deck. He wants nothing more of the world than what the world wants of him: to not be bothered, and to just chill out. At the end of the movie, The Dude seems to have a bit more of a swagger in his step, a bit more confidence in his bowling arm. Maybe it’s just relief that the whole ordeal has ended, but it seems that The Dude has decided to actually start caring about life and his relationships with others, a profound moment of clarity that while there is a certain enjoyment and allure to self-imposed, White Russian-induced isolation, there is much more joy that can actually be derived from attempting to knock down 7-10 splits in the real world, even if those splits never come to fruition.
That’s just my interpretation of the film, and there are endless ways to watch The Big Lebowski. I mean truly endless, books have been devoted to deciphering the movie and even festivals celebrating this movie. Hell, I went to Lebowskifest in LA back in 2013 and remember people sitting in the raftors, wearing bathrobes and reading the script of the movie out loud as the actual movie played in front of us. It was the weirdest fandom I’ve ever experienced firsthand, but was just testament to the fact that there is just something about this movie that resonates with everyone after enough viewings. You may not like it at first, but you will learn to like it and eventually love it.
That brings us to our central question, one that has never been fully answered but always wondered by fans, film critics and even the Coen brothers themselves: WHY DO PEOPLE LIKE THIS MOVIE SO MUCH? What is the mystical, innate quality lurking behind The Big Lebowski that draws all walks of life to it?
I think its because The Big Lebowski is a series of moments, all of them essentially pointless, with no additional or deeper meaning derived when you add them all up together. But each individual moment exists as a memory, something that seems like it should carry meaning because it exists, and in turn, creates meaning because of the fact that it exists.
It’s just like when you can remember a random moment from 10th grade English class but cannot think back on anything that was said during your high school commencement speech. “Why do I remember this one moment in time so much?” we catch ourselves wondering. “It wasn’t anything wonderful or seminal, it wasn’t embarrassing or cringe-worthy, I wasn’t overly happy or sad during this moment and it didn’t have a big impact on my life. But for some reason, I remember it so distinctly and clearly! It must be important, otherwise I would have forgotten about it!”
The Big Lebowski is a collection of these types of moments, with memorable people and just enough strangeness that every scene, while unnecessary, is intermittently enjoyable. It lurks in the back of our subconscious, never standing out, but always ready to walk in. Very few times do we find ourselves actively wanting to watch The Big Lebowski. It’s usually just stumbling upon it on cable television or when it is streaming on Netflix or HBO GO, and we decided to take that journey with The Dude and Walter once again.
It’s also just like bowling, a sport where we don’t really care about how well we did or any ultimate goal, we just enjoy the experience. Very few people can remember the last score they got when they went bowling, or even who they were with or what alley they went to But they do remember that they had fun, enough fun to want to come back and bowl again. That’s The Big Lebowski in a nutshell: we don’t know what specifically we like about it, we just do, and that keeps us coming back for more.