During my adolescence, I was ringed into watching awful stoner comedies by my easily entertained peers and my brother who thought weed jokes were the hottest thing right now. There were a couple of decent ones, like Harold and Kumar, but most of them were just mindless drivel and cheap jokes about sex and getting so totally slammed, dude. There wasn’t much to be found in intellectual enlightenment but that wasn’t the goal of these movies. It was simply to entertain. However, I believe the blueprint of these movies came from a film that like many movies in the Pile, I’ve heard legends of and seen references all over the place. That was The Big Lebowski, a cult favourite (I seem to like those in this series) stoner comedy that I, of course, had to watch.
Going into it, I had almost no idea what it was actually about. All I knew that there was bowling involved, a dude named The Dude and John Goodman looking like an idiot. I had no clue what the story was going to be like so I went into this with bright and fresh eyes brimming with curiosity. Boy was that one hell of a ride I went on. The Big Lebowski is an exercise in the absurd and the personification of juxtaposition. It’s a story of a lazy stoner with no real ambitions being caught up in complex issues, conspiracies, strange events and all manners of bonkers shit. The dialogue between The Dude and Walter is sometimes so hard to follow that you just break out laughing from pure confusion.
The Coen Brothers really did a number with this script and you can clearly see where they were going with it. It’s a film that is broken apart into individual segments of some ridiculous thing happening that comes along with its own special effects, memorable quotes and insane dialogue which then moves along to an ultimate conclusion that is massively anti-climatic. The anti-climax is what made me laugh the most as it was just so ingeniously implemented that you can just feel the scriptwriters laughing at you through the screen.Movies are afraid to make such bold moves and it was refreshing to see it in a film about a guy in a bathrobe that just wanted a new carpet (because it really tied the room together).
The ADHD infused dialogue with the mumblings of crazy and delusional men contrasting with the high English of similarly delusional authority figures was a joy to behold. The interjections and excessive swearing made it all the funnier as it just added to the absurdity of it all and while it was sometimes hard to follow, I still knew exactly what was going on. Surprisingly, the dialogue was also much smarter than it had any right to be. There are nuggets of truth scattered around the stumbling words of our heroes and there are even papers that were written on the social and political commentary that was made by the same characters that are not afraid to pull a gun on a dude in a bowling alley.
The dream sequences and the hallucinations are some of the best I’ve seen come out of this weird niche of comedy movies. The movie is so peppered with fun and unique scenes that it ultimately ties together to create this masterpiece of absurdity. The humour is an entirely different brand than we’re traditionally used to as it can almost be seen as sullen and not really apparent. You’d go through many scenes not even raising a smile and just sit there with your eyebrows contorted in a strange fashion, but after everything is done you just let out the chuckles. The humour sneaks up on you and even as I’m sitting here remembering the movie for this article, I’m laughing at some of the scenes that I didn’t when they were actually in front of me. It hits you like a ninja freight train.
That might also be why the movie was initially not really a critical darling, but after some time, critics even changed their scores and included the movies into their top lists. It’s a movie that hits you where you least expect it and when you least expect it. Its genius hidden within the veneer of its disjointed madness. It’s no surprise that this ended up having a massive cult following as this is a type of stoner comedy that really sticks with you. It’s no wonder that they made a religion in the movie’s honour.
I initially chose The Big Lebowski because I wanted something a little simpler and funny following a few weeks of serious entries into the Pile, but what ended up happening was me watching a film that was more complex and interesting than some of the movies in the Pile’s archive. But it was hilariously complex. It’s a shame that the state of stoner comedies have taken such a grave turn to crushing mediocrity when I look at a movie like this and was shown what could be done when you really try and do something special.
But, that’s just, like, my opinion, man.
The Pile isn’t getting any smaller! Next week I’m delving back into the world of the weird with Pan’s Labyrinth.
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