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20 Years On, 'The Big Lebowski' Reminds Us To Slow Down, Dude

Jeff Bridges, John Goodman and Steve Buscemi portay bowling teammates The Dude, Walter and Donny.
Mondadori Portfolio
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Mondadori via Getty Images
Jeff Bridges, John Goodman and Steve Buscemi portay bowling teammates The Dude, Walter and Donny.

"The Dude abides."

OK. As iconic movie lines go, maybe it's not as iconic as "Here's looking at you, kid" or "I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."

But for fans of the film The Big Lebowski, there are few things better than hearing Jeff Bridges say those words with such nonchalant slacker indifference.

And so it is that this week, the Coen brothers' masterpiece — yes, I'm declaring and defending its status as a masterpiece — marked 20 years since it first hit the theaters.

It didn't exactly win rave reviews upon its release.

But its lead character, who spends a good chunk of the film in his shorts and an open bathrobe and who drinks milk right out of the carton in the dairy aisle at the grocery store, has become one of the cinema's most beloved anti-heroes.

He ambles through life with no ambition, except for trying to get reimbursed for the rug — one that "really tied the room together" — that a pair of thugs soiled while ransacking his less-than-modest apartment in an act of mistaken identity.

Is there a lasting lesson from such a character now, two decades later?

The Big Lebowski came out in the days before smartphones and Twitter and YouTube and push notifications. But even then, it recognized that we all needed to slow down just a little bit. To just chill.

That is what The Dude taught me.

Now, as I sit here in the year 2018, I can truthfully tell you that I didn't listen. I think none of us did. But we can still try.

Go to the bowling alley. Catch up with an old friend, like that guy at the bar with the cowboy hat and the deep voice.

Oh. One other thing about The Dude. He never liked the band The Eagles. Though he said so in somewhat cruder language.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.

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