When I first saw The Big Lebowski – back when it was in theatres in mid/late 1998 – I felt seen. I had been down the aisles of the supermarket in my robe, a dropping-out uni student, conscientiously objecting to, er, something…or anything really…
I was also there as a fan of The Coen Brothers, of course. I’d seen everything they’d done up to that time. And was a huge fan of Fargo and Miller’s Crossing in particular. They had a half-dozen mad, perfect, wonderful films under their belt. Dark and hilarious. (It hasn’t been a bad run the other side of Lebowski either).
But The Big Lebowski was the most re-watchable then. And now. The lines. The big prank of the story. The stacked cast – including a lot of “arrival” moments for actors that had been bubbling under (Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman) – all knocked it out of the park. And some great musician-cameos (Jimmie Dale Gilmour, Aimee Mann, er Flea…) The soundtrack was hip too. Perfect film.
I’ve returned to it a few times over the years, often with a beverage in my hand – The Dude’s cocktail of choice: A White Russian/Caucasian. (Though that’s no longer my scene, man).
Recently, I watched Lebowski for the first time in a while. And I saw it in style. On the big screen again – out at The Roxy in Miramar. The Roxy is a lovely destination-cinema – with a restaurant and bar, and with a bunch of clever themed film evenings and movie tie-ins; they do feasts for the eyes and tummy where you’ll have a food and/or drink experience matched with a classic or cult flick. They do anniversary screenings. They give you reasons to step outside and away from your Netflix cue, reasons to drive across town and pay some money for ‘an experience’.
I could have stayed home and watched Lebowski. Sure. But at the end of a working week it was a real celebration to go and watch it in style. Not only that, there was pre-show entertainment – the greatest hits of the (“Fucking”) Eagles playing in the foyer, you could take a selfie in the Time: Man of the Year mirror…
Jackie Treehorn’s Bar opened just outside the cinema door to sell you White Russians if that was (still) your thing.
And maybe best of all, an interval (bring back the interval in the movie-screening!) and if you’d paid the bit extra you could take your ticket stub and exchange it for an “In—N-Out Burger” made by friends of The Roxy, Gorilla Burger.
I’m aware of the Lebowski’s worldwide cult – I’ve read a couple of books dedicated to the making of the movie and the fan-screenings and events that continue worldwide to this day. What I loved about this Roxy showing was how it was lowkey – but just enough effort had been made. I didn’t feel part of a nerd-cult (not that there’s too much wrong with that, I guess). I just felt supported in my choice of wanting to see an old favourite in style.
And the film? Still hilarious. A mad, brilliant journey through some exquisitely pointless set-pieces and great gags; offbeat tribute to noir packed with killer performances.
Crucially though, the tone of the Roxy was sublime – an introduction told us that this was not a chant-along screening. So what if you knew all the lines. Yes, yes, what little achievers you were, and proud the Roxy was of all of us, but keep your mouth shut and let the first-timers have a cool experience. Let the film play and do its thing. Far Out!
I loved seeing it again. I loved being in an audience that laughed at favourite bits and was there to bask in cinema’s greatest offering: escapism.
And though it had been a few years since I had seen Lebowski – it was a movie I owned on VHS tape. Yes. Even that format. Then, briefly, I owned it on DVD. I had rented it on both formats prior to owning it on both formats too. Just such an easy film to chuck on and drift in and out with – a Pulp Fiction-esque ruse of silliness and exquisite craft.
My favourite scenes change each time I watch it – because there are so many, you can almost forget about the bit where he goes to Jackie Treehorn’s, or the bit where there’s a cameo from one of the greatest actors ever (David Thewlis as Knox Harrington, the video artist!) Or what about the bit where they go confront the kid about leaving his homework in the back of the car, then drive out in a smashed up car listening to Santana…
On and on. So many great moments. So many great cameos. But I think the star, overall, is the dialogue. That clever circular thing too where someone says a word, it’s new to them, then they use it again – or another character is heard to use it. Johnson for example. Very clever. Very funny.
And some incredible monologues. Maybe John Goodman is best here. His Walter Sobchak is a pheonomenal character – and the Coens always got an electric, dark performance from Goodman.
And obviously The Dude gets some great lines, some great laidback rants…
You have to love The Stranger. Sam Elliott, basically a life-support system for a moustache, chewing down hard on language and spitting out the nuggets.
But I reckon the actual Big Lebowski – David Huddleston (R.I.P.) as the phony millionaire that may or may not walk, according to Walter – is the king of the speeches in this movie. Your revolution is over Mr Lebowski. The bums lost. Condolences.
That gets me every time.