Tuesday, May 12, 2009

464 - Play It Again #12 - The Big Lebowski

Aaron McNally is above all things a poet. Sit down with this kind gentlemen for a Piraat and you'll find one who embraces life as an experience to be transmuted into words lyrical and emotive. Though poetry is his medium of choice, Aaron's talent and thoughtfulness fails to falter when discussing any other art form. He holds a masters' in English Literature and has had a splendid collection of his poems published, a book titled Out of the Blue.

Aaron's selection is "The Big Lebowski," the Coen brothers' 1998 cult classic comedy about a stoner's Chandler-lite misadventures in Los Angeles.

As a poet, one of the primary things that keeps me coming back to “The Big Lebowski” is the brilliance of its writing. Dialect and common phraseology play such a dominant role in the film’s script that not only are its characters memorable for their costumes and charisma, but because of their utterances—a jovial array of one-liners and quick-fire monologues intermingled within lightning-fast dialogue.

Language of this kind plays such an important role that it actually becomes a part of the plot—particularly during defining moments. With respect to this tendency in the film, I notice the Dude’s constant mimicry of other characters’ speech.

When the Dude first sits down to meet Jeffrey Lebowski, for example, he mimics George H.W. Bush’s speech from the supermarket scene in an attempt to sound forceful—“This aggression will not stand, man!” While this is a bit of political humor, it is also relevant to the Dude’s character development. The Dude’s mimicry of other characters is indicative of his ability to be influenced by them, which is something that, as lazy and seemingly witless as he is, becomes the challenge that the Dude overcomes at the end of the film.

the big lebowski Pictures, Images and Photos

When the Dude has another altercation with Lebowski (this time in Lebowski’s limo), he again mimics another character—Maude, Lebowski’s daughter—slipping the phrase “in the parlance of our times,” which is directly lifted from Maude’s rumination on penile slang. In this scene, the Dude is beginning to feel powerless, frustrated by his constant yielding to provocation—impotent, in a sense.

the big lebowski Pictures, Images and Photos

The final notable repetition that I notice in the Dude’s dialogue shows his liberation from this tension. It occurs when he meets the narrator for the final time and quotes the narrator to himself. The narrator plays no small role in the film. He introduces us to the Dude at the beginning (“way out west [. . .] there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place”) and re-appears late in the film, maintaining an emotional core. He also offers the Dude the pacifying maximum that the Dude then repeats in the end, albeit in a lazily fragmented way: “Sometimes you eat the bar.” - Aaron McNally

1 comment:

Rob D said...

It really is a great film. Exceptional acting, and John Turturro's over-the-top portrayal of Jesus the Bowler may just take the cake. Jeff Bridges and John Goodman were masterful in this. One of the great movies of our time. And man, what a great script!