The term “cult classic” has become quite the buzzword to describe any offbeat, obscure film that isn’t popular by the mainstream, and one that simply does not meet the tastes of most people, despite critical acclaim or box office numbers. However, only a few films can be considered real cult classics, which are simply films that had very little popularity with anyone when they were released, but over time have amassed a real following and earned their place amongst the hearts of a small but dedicated fanbase. The archetypal example of this is The Big Lebowski.
When it was released in 1998, no one really knew what to think of The Big Lebowski. It was a strange, unconventional film that had the usually gruff and serious Jeff Bridges playing a middle-aged, pot-head loser with greasy hair and wearing a bathrobe. It had very odd humor and completely dismantled the normal structure of a film. It was incredibly divisive, and made hardly any money and was pretty much the subject of harsh criticism from reviewers. This seems all the more disappointing when you consider who two years previously, The Coen Brothers had a massive hit with Fargo. However, as time has gone on, The Big Lebowski has become something legendary – The Dude represented everyone who felt connections to not conforming to society, and we see the ridiculousness of the world through The Dude’s eyes. This is a crazy place filled with some very odd people.
One reason why this film was very much seen as something too eclectic for the mainstream was the cast. You have Jeff Bridges, who was known for playing these tough, All-American, patriotic characters who were all very serious and brave, but he trades that image in to play a sad-sack, stoner loser. John Goodman was just coming off the success of nine seasons of Roseanne, and to see the man who played Dan Conner, the sweet and caring patriach, playing a loose-cannon Vietnam veteran who seems to think he knows everything is incredibly unsettling but strangely incredibly funny. Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore and Philip Seymour Hoffman are just some more incredible actors who occupy the very strange and brilliant universe that The Big Lebowski is set in.
The Big Lebowski is not a typical film – like I said above, its very strange how it deconstructs the whole genre. This can be considered a comedic detective movie, and it has all the elements, but it also picks apart the mechanics of the genre – the plot isn’t as linear as most films, and the story goes off to places one wouldn’t normally think it would. This may sound like a criticism, but it actually is my favorite element of this film – because the plot is handled in such a different way, you never know where the story is going to go. It isn’t predictable at all, and right up until the last minute, you have no idea what is going to happen next.
I really enjoyed The Big Lebowski – it was very dark and twisted, but had a great sense of humor. The entire concept was genius, and while it wasn’t given the praise it deserved when it came out originally, it now has great appeal and a strong following of fans. It may be silly and confusing at times, but if you simply just sit back, don’t try to overthink the story and let The Dude lead you on this very weird, twisted, hilarious journey, you will find yourself having one of the most surreal, wonderful film experiences possible. A brilliant piece of art, and something genuinely hilarious.