Thursday, April 30, 2009

Does It Hold Up?

During the course of the weekend the conversation steered itself in such a direction that my wife admitted with a reluctant smile that she had, in fact, never seen THE BIG LEBOWSKI.

“Never seen it? But it’s brilliant! Hysterical!” My eyes widened with each exclamation of greatness. “We must rectify the situation immediately!”

She settled into her preferred corner of the couch as I went about opening the various leather albums we’ve been transferring our DVDs into in an effort to save space. I flipped through the pages and considered something I hadn’t though of when I previously combusted with enthusiasm at the thought of introducing her to THE BIG LEBOWSKI:

Was it really as good as I remembered it?

I originally saw it in the theater, its viewing remarkable because it was the first time I recalled taking my younger brother along with my friends. He loved it, and it cemented now long-standing ritual of checking out at least one movie every time we get together. Past that, I maybe saw the film in its entirety once more when I bought original DVD, and some snippets here and there on cable.


I needn’t have worried; if anything THE BIG LEBOWSKI got even better 11 years later. Particularly John Goodman’s performance. I’m sure it was always there, but watching this time I was able to catch a lot of the cracks in his hardcore shell: the wincing pain when his ex-wife comes up, the flare-ups at poor Donny (a wonderfully understated Steve Buscemi) that mask deeper insecurities. If Jeff Bridges’ “Dude” is the unwavering constant, then Goodman’s Walter is the journeyman in the film: the close on him hugging the Dude after Donny’s ashes are haphazardly flung into the ocean (and the Dude’s face) is hilarious and poignant, we feel Walter may have turned a corner in his life, even as “the Dude abides,” as Sam Elliot points out in the final scene.

The point is, the damn thing not only held up, but improved in my eyes years later.

Over the next few days, I started thinking about other films I loved upon initial viewing but haven’t seen in years…would they hold up to scrutiny? And is the opposite true - would films I didn’t like age like a fine cheese with the appropriate distance? I’m guessing the latter is probably more true than not: there are a lot of films that take time, knowledge, and experience to appreciate. L’AVVENTURA is up front in the list of films I just didn’t enjoy or “get” the first time around. Admittedly it’s been well over a dozen years since I tried, those years filled with a lot more amateur experience in watching and writing about movies. So maybe next time it’ll work out, who know?


If there’s a question anywhere in this post, I suppose it’s this: what films out there did you love, only to find out it wasn’t the film you remember upon seeing it again? Conversely, what films got better with time, not only moving up in an already favorable estimation, but actually changing your mind about it?

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