Thursday, March 31, 2016
The Big Lebowski
Let's see what condition my reviewing is in.
So, the interesting thing to me about this movie is that not a single character is aware what kind of movie they are in. It's like the Coen's grabbed characters off the sets of a bunch of different films and stuck them all in a heist movie, and each character is gamely trying to make the movie they thought they were making originally in. You've got the Dude, who's making a stoner comedy, Walter, who is making a Rambo-type ignored veterans of Vietnam flick, the Stranger, who is narrating a Western, Maude, who is making a second-wave feminist art house piece, the nihilists, who are making a German existentialist movie, the Big Lebowski, who is making Citizen Kane, the Jesus, a guy who is making a particularly dirty telenovela, and Treehorn and Bunnie, who are making a porn. And Donny is just a guy who likes to bowl who wandered onto the set. There are a lot of critical pieces about how it's about men feeling emasculated by women in the late 80's and early 90's, between the castration threats, Maude using the Dude as a sperm donor without his consent, the Big Lebowski being little more than a kept man whose only illusion of power comes from keeping a woman of his own - who in turn further emasculates him by running out on him whenever she pleases and openly offering sexual services to other men. That may be true. There may also be some major criticism of the odd sexual attitudes of second wave feminism, where sex was good provided it was the right kind of sex, and the wrong kind of sex was to be severely punished as "regressive" and "patriarchal oppression". Maude is certainly a character who does not see her own hypocrisy, where it's all right for her to use a man for her own ends, but Bunnie is a slut and a nymphomaniac for doing the same.
But to me, the interest in the movie comes from the fact that these are all people in the wrong movie. Each one of them has been a tragic hero in another flick, and here, they are all just kind of absurd figures wandering around, shouting "fuck" and horribly annoying each other. I've wondered why I don't hate this movie, when it isn't that fundamentally different from A Confederacy of Dunces, which also features absurd people who all think they're supposed to be the hero but are in the wrong story to be. I guess because no one in The Big Lebowski is as repulsive as any of the characters in A Confederacy of Dunces. Even Walter, who is by all measurements a pretty horrible human being, is understandable to some degree. You've seen the character trope before, just usually you don't see him as a nutter in a bowling alley. He's usually cast as tragic because of what he saw in 'Nam, and depending on the sympathy of the director, he is either one dropped coffee cup away from killing everyone or he is so beaten by the system that his PTSD has gone untreated for however many years and it's an indictment of American society.
I can't say whether a person will like this movie or not. It's a curious film. I'm not sorry that I've seen it, and I probably won't re-watch it. It does have a pretty awesome soundtrack.