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Movies you missed: 'The Big Lebowski'

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

HUMPHREY BOGART: (As Rick Blaine) Here's looking at you, kid.

CLARK GABLE: (As Rhett Butler) Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

It's time now for Movies You Missed.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

CUBA GOODING JR: (As Rod Tidwell) Show me the money.

ROBERT DE NIRO: (As Travis Bickle) You talking to me?

ESTELLE REINER: (As Older Woman Customer) I'll have what she's having.

OPRAH WINFREY: (As Sofia) I ain't never thought I had to fight in my own house.

MARLON BRANDO: (As Stanley Kowalski) Stella.

SIMON: This week, hope you brought bowling shoes.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE BIG LEBOWSKI")

JEFF BRIDGES: (As The Dude) The dude abides.

SIMON: The Big Lebowski - 1998 stoner comedy written and directed by the Coen brothers about mistaken identity, a soiled rug, a missing wife, a gang of nihilists - how can people who believe in nothing even have a gang? - and a dude who abides. We actually found three people who have never seen it - April Price, a realtor in Colorado; Kristan McMahon, who runs a nonprofit in New York; and Kate Holden, who's pursuing a Ph.D. in Ireland - not in dude studies, we assume. Thanks so much for being with us.

APRIL PRICE: Thank you for having me.

KRISTAN MCMAHON: Nice to be here.

KATE HOLDEN: Thanks. It's a Ph.D. in theater.

SIMON: Let's get this out of the way. Have you been avoiding the film, or did you just never see it over the years? Kristan McMahon?

MCMAHON: So I don't think it was conscious for me. It was just - I was in grad school at the time this came out, so I wasn't really paying attention to movies. And then I started noticing a trend in my dating life. If I was on a date with a guy and it was one of our first couple of dates, and he would mention that "The Big Lebowski" was his favorite movie, and I would say, oh, I've never seen it. And then he would say, oh, my gosh, it's the best thing ever. Like, I'll totally make a plan. We'll get together, and we'll watch it. And then I would never see that person again. So at some point, it actually became kind of a funky way to weed out people (laughter).

SIMON: (Laughter).

HOLDEN: I had a very similar story to Kristan, where I kept going on dates with men in their late 20s, early 30s, and it was the same - like, smoked American Spirits, wore a red flannel jacket, thought Ernest Hemingway was the greatest thing since sliced bread. And in the same profile would be, oh, I love "The Big Lebowski." And I lied, and I said that I had seen this film because I was done having the same conversation about how great it was. I was like, what is the appeal? And I'm still asking that question.

SIMON: You've seen it now, right?

HOLDEN: I've seen it now.

SIMON: And what do you think?

HOLDEN: I didn't need to watch it to figure out that it was about bowling and abiding and a confusing double-crossed plot of film noir meets Western meets clown show meets absurdity. I don't think I was missing out.

SIMON: Very well said. April Price in Colorado, what did you think of the film?

PRICE: I actually quite enjoyed it for what it is. You know, I think had it been released now, I don't think it would carry as much weight and such a cult following as back then. But I quite appreciated it for what it's meant to be. It's not meant to win Oscars. It's meant to just take you on this wild ride. There were moments I laughed out loud and moments where I kind of rolled my eyes. But I - now that I finally saw it, the dude abides. You know, I know what that means now - sort of, I suppose.

SIMON: A lot of us use the phrase even without knowing. Kristan McMahon, what was your reaction to seeing the film?

MCMAHON: I think I had a very similar reaction. So there were definitely parts I laughed out loud. I had no idea most of the people who were in that movie were actually in that movie. It was a really great cast.

SIMON: Oh, yeah. I mean, let me just add - Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, Aimee Mann.

MCMAHON: Yeah. Sam Elliott.

SIMON: Sam Elliott, Jeff Bridges - Sam Elliott gets the dude abides.

MCMAHON: Yeah. So I am glad that I took the opportunity to watch it, although now I'm wondering what I will do to weed out dates.

SIMON: (Laughter) Well, we can only answer so many questions. What are some other standouts for all of you?

HOLDEN: Standouts for me were actually the roles of women in the film. I mean, for me, most of the film is about, you know, people as vehicles for desire, right? There's a lot of wants in the piece, right? And I felt like I was here for Bunny. You know, there was part of me that was like, so what if Bunny is this money-seeking, sex-crazed lady living her best life? Why not? And then the performance artist, feminist character, I thought it was interesting that the only thing she could want is to literally and figuratively conceive.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE BIG LEBOWSKI")

BRIDGES: (As The Dude) What is that? Yoga?

JULIANNE MOORE: (As Maude Lebowski) It increases the chances of conception.

BRIDGES: (As The Dude) Increases?

MOORE: (As Maude Lebowski) Well, yes. What did you think this is all about? Fun and games?

HOLDEN: It wasn't I just want this great, you know, sexual experience with this person and to bail. It's, oh, I want your baby. And it's like, what?

SIMON: There's so many lines that people quote.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE BIG LEBOWSKI")

BRIDGES: (As The Dude) Yeah, man. It really tied the room together.

SIMON: Do you have any lines you'll take away from this that will win their way into your everyday conversation?

PRICE: Well, I have a soft spot for Mr. Sam Elliott. He looks and reminds me very much of my father. So one of my favorite lines, which is so simple, honestly, is...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE BIG LEBOWSKI")

SAM ELLIOTT: (As The Stranger) Sometimes you eat the bar, and - much obliged - sometimes the bar, well, it eats you.

PRICE: And it's very true.

SIMON: And Kate Holden?

HOLDEN: Like, a dialogue moment that really stuck with me was the German band at the pancake house and the ridiculous orders. There's not a new mantra I'm taking away, but imagistically, it stuck with me more. And I did really like the dream sequences. I had an appreciation for that cinematically.

SIMON: So now that you've seen the movie, is it over, or is there something you're going to take from the film? Kristan McMahon?

MCMAHON: So I really love absurd movies, and this was pretty absurd. So I am appreciative that I have watched it. I can probably still use it as a barometer because I think I have enough of a benchmark from the previous dates as to the type of guy who really loves this movie and whether or not that is a person I want to spend more time with and/or who wants to spend more time with me.

PRICE: For me personally - April in Colorado - it's not Top 10 movies of all time, but I'm glad that it's in my repertoire now. In retrospect, I almost wish I would have seen it with my friends back in 1998. I think I may need to see it one more time just to pick up on certain things I missed, maybe with a White Russian in hand - who knows? - just sit in my robe and really get into it.

HOLDEN: I liked it more than I thought it would. And I think, you know, giving something a chance and leaving a little bit room for surprise is worth it, because I was like, OK, maybe there is something to this. But like April, there probably won't be, you know, rounds of praise. I might finally try a White Russian. I might go bowling. I might rewatch it just to see if - you know, what I missed, because I feel like I - you know, am I missing something? is still a question I have about it.

SIMON: You know, I wish all of us could get together with a White Russian right now. Kate Holden, April Price, Kristan McMahon, thanks so much for being with us.

MCMAHON: Thank you.

PRICE: Thanks for having us.

HOLDEN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JUST DROPPED IN (TO SEE WHAT CONDITION MY CONDITION WAS IN)")

KENNY ROGERS AND THE FIRST EDITION: (Singing) Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. What condition my condition was in.

SIMON: If there's a movie you've missed, you can tell us all about it at n.pr/moviesyoumissed.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JUST DROPPED IN (TO SEE WHAT CONDITION MY CONDITION WAS IN)")

KENNY ROGERS AND THE FIRST EDITION: (Singing) I found my mind in a brown paper bag, but then I tripped on a cloud and fell eight miles high. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.