“A way out west there was a fella, fella I want to tell you about, fella by the name of Jeff Lebowski.” Twenty years later and that opening voice-over still brings a smile to my face. I’m not sure if it’s the smooth sounding voice of Sam Elliot, the writing, the scrolling camera shot of the streets of California, or a combination of the three but it makes me love the movie a little bit more each time. I unfortunately didn't have the chance to view The BIg Lebowski until I was seventeen and it instantly became one of my favorite movies. The DVD at the time was in a discount bin for five bucks and after reading the back of the case and seeing the actors in it i thought “What the hell it’s only five bucks” and took it home for the first viewing. I watched it again the next day before I went to work at the retail job I had at the time, upon punching in I quickly asked around until I found someone who also saw the film. After screaming “OVER THE LINE SMOKEY!” and “NO ONE FUCKS WITH THE JESUS!” a few times we began discussing the movie and our favorite parts. This coworker then informed me there was an actual religion based of of The Dude, and it was at this moment I realized I stumbled upon something bigger than just a small film from the late 90’s that I enjoyed.
The legacy this film leaves behind would probably be best described as mix somewhere between an actual cult and a comedy classic. The Church of the Latter-Day Dude might disagree with being called a cult since their message is one of a positive nature, but with such a passionate following of the film why can’t a cult mean something positive in this setting? Especially since the movie has it’s own festival. Lebowski Fest is something that happens every year where a ton of fans get together to cosplay, answer trivia, and talk about the film. The festival has even had stars of the film attend to hold panels and attend Q&A. Even themed parties can't escape the grasp of this film, hell with that much fun even if it was a cult I would consider joining myself. It’s almost hard to believe that upon opening in the US in 1998 the film only grossed $17 million with the box office in the US, barely clearing the $15 million dollar budget.
One of the many things I love about this film is that the main characters are relatable. Everyone has a Donnie in their group, you know someone you tell to shut the fuck up or just treat like shit because they allow it, of course it's out of love and you’d give the guy (or gal) the shirt off of your back but there's just something about that roastable face of his or hers that makes you want to give ‘em shit. Then there’s The Dude, the one in the group who goes with the flow. The semi-enlightened one, the person who is always there for their friends and who will try to keep the group from running into conflict if avoidable. The one that loves to do his own thing, but will still answer the phone for you even if he is beyond pissed. Just to let you know he got home safe after a fight between the two of you. Finally there’s Walter, the character I relate to the most of the three. The asshole in the group that stands his ground when it isn’t necessary or appropriate in most cases, but is also the first to make sure his friends are safe in any situation. He’s the hammer in the tool box of eyeglass repair kits.
With the twenty year anniversary at hand, let’s all pour up a stiff White Russian blare some CCR and toast one of the greatest films of all times. I really don’t need an excuse to watch one of the greatest films of all time, but I know after work today I’m popping in a copy and sitting back to enjoy this fine piece of American cinema. You should as well.