“The Big Lebowski” on the “Royale With Cheese Movie Club”

Okay, you blog-readers all voted.  I gave you several titles a few weeks ago for my next Royale With Cheese Movie Club choice – films that everybody in the world has seen except me – and you chose “The Big Lebowski.”

I should say that in watching this film, I was a bit out of my element.

I think that for me, the best way to understand this film is that it’s a metaphysical, stream-of-consciousness picture, a Coen Brothers surreal comedy rather than a Coen Brothers detailed drama.

So as I’m watching the film, I’m trying to figure out whether it’s a comedy that uses bowling as a metaphor for life, or whether it’s a comedy that uses life as a metaphor for bowling.  And if we add in a replacement rug (that apparently compensates for a rug that really tied the room together), a kidnapping of a woman named Bunny Lebowski, who I understand is married to another Lebowski – meanwhile there’s a guy called Jeffrey Lebowski, who is the titular character called the Dude, a free spirit who lives on a diet of weed, White Russians – er, Caucasians – and bowling, while avoiding bathtub-swimming marmots.

Yeah, I’ll figure this film out.


Halfway through the film, I’m trying to figure out which MacGuffin I’m not supposed to follow.   Believe me, I’ve read Dashiell Hammett novels that aren’t as complex as this.

Or maybe I should just forget about following any sort of plot in this film, and just absorb the characters of the Dude, tightly-wired Walter and Donny, and bowling opponent The Jesus (not “Hey-Soos,” as I would have expected), and a trio of Kraftwerk clones that look like they stumbled out of a casting call for an Art of Noise video…

And all these characters intersect and travel through this plotline – er, plotlines – with a plethora of catchphrases and punchlines, many of which I can’t reprint in this blog without my TU blog cursing filter melting down.

And the bowling scenes… I have to tell you, they were filmed with an almost fetish-like detail to them, from the slow-motion bowling deliveries and strikes, to the one shot where the camera’s inside the fingers of the bowling ball as it rolls straight towards the lanes.  And that’s not even counting the Busby Berkeley-like musical number in the “Gutterballs” drug/dream scene…

I may not have understood The Big Lebowski on its first viewing, but I think there’s enough of it for me to watch it again some time.  Maybe that’s its appeal.  To be able to laugh and quote the lines from the film, and to appreciate the characters of the Dude and Walter and Donny and all the rest.

Heck, it might even convince me to step back in a bowling alley and once again bowl.

Even if it’s on shabbos.