' ' Cinema Romantico: (Not) Ranking All The Dude's White Russians

Thursday, May 12, 2022

(Not) Ranking All The Dude's White Russians

2022 is not the Silver anniversary of The Coen Brothers cult classic “The Big Lebowski.” No, that will be next year. But then, doesn’t the stoned out vibe of “The Big Lebowski” suggest a 25th anniversary might unintentionally take place on the 24th instead? Perplexed Jeff Bridges Voice: “What year is this?” Not that the approaching anniversary is what inspired this post. No, that stemmed from the cabin where I was recently vacationing on the north shore of Minnesota where along with all the usual rustic decoration the owners had also propped up a framed ode to the White Russian, referencing both Halle Berry’s Catwoman (I haven’t seen it but I picture more a dark rum drink there) and The Dude of Los Angeles, California. This ode noted, in fact, that The Dude imbibes a total of nine white Russians during “The Big Lebowski.” “Is that right?” I thought. “Nine?” I counted them off and then realized I had the makings of a post, one in which I could rank all nine of those White Russians. But ranking The Dude’s White Russians...I don’t know, that seems very un-Dude. So, what about honoring one of the original authors of the Port Huron Statement with a semi-philosophical appraisal of all nine White Russians? After all, the White Russian recipe is essentially universal, yet each White Russian in “The Big Lebowski” is not necessarily alike. 

(Not) Ranking All The Dude's White Russians

The most famous White Russian imbibed by The Dude is undoubtedly the one when he is transferred by force from one limousine to another because even with his left arm twisted behind his back he never relinquishes that cocktail in his right hand, memorably imploring “Careful, man, there’s a beverage here!” and epitomizing the imperishable preeminence of vodka, Kahlua, and milk. 

The least White Russian-y White Russian are indisputably the two served to him by adult film impresario Jackie Treehorn (Ben Gazzara). “A White Russian,” Gazzara says as his character mixes the drink for The Dude in a voice that makes it sound like Jackie Treehorn has a long, complicated history with the beverage himself. But these drinks, of course, are laced with narcotics, knocking The Dude out, fashioning the White Russian as a weapon, the spiritual antithesis of it as a relaxant, a mixologist’s most severe transgression.

The Dude’s last White Russian is quietly a perfect embodiment of a boozy post-coital breather (with Maude) even if it chiefly exists as the conduit to a sight gag.

The two White Russians drunk by The Dude at Maude’s – one in their first meeting, one in their second encounter – function as a kind of party favor.

The two White Russians he downs at the bar bowling alley – the first with Walter and Donny, the second with The Stranger – are nothing less than a barfly therapeutic.

In the end, though, it is The Dude’s first White Russian that seems to say it all. We first see him mixing it in a wide shot, framing him beneath his framed picture of a bowling President Nixon, essentially uniting The Dude’s two most fervent beliefs (White Russians and bowling, that is, not Nixon’s version of the war on drugs). And when his eccentric landlord subsequently knocks on the door, apologetically and indirectly asking for the rent, that same White Russian becomes a medicinal in the face of this economic burden, while in the ensuing moment it becomes something even more than medicine, the nexus, sipping at it even as he performs some vague variation of on Tai-Chi, his treasured mixed drink the ultimate source and limit of reality, the shot that ties the movie together like the rug he’s standing on binds the room. 

No comments: