Tuesday, 7 April 2015

The Achievers: The Story of the Lebowski Fans

Title: The Achievers: The Story of the Lebowski Fans
Director: Eddie Chung
Released: 2009
Plot: Documentary following the fans of "The Big Lebowski" and the Lebowski fest they created.

Review: When it was originally released in 1998 the Coen Brothers were coming in hot off the back of the success of the critically acclaimed “Fargo”. However their follow up “The Big Lebowski” would be less favourably received as it was branded both a critical and commercial flop on its original release.  However the film refused to be forgotten and was soon being shown at midnight screenings as it continued to gain a cult following. There would however been one group of fans who would take their love of this film one step further with “Lebowski Fest”. This is their story.

Taking their name from an obscure reference to the film, the achievers are a group of passionate Lebowski fans, whose shared love of the film would be turned into a festival by founding members Will Russell and Scott Shuffitt in 2002, who had the simple plan of getting together a group of Die Hard fans in a bowling alley, while they kept the white Russians flowing and the movie running. It would turn out to be an idea which would soon become a phenomenon as the festival  continues to grow with each passing year. Thankfully Director Eddie Chung happened to be in the right place with his camera rolling as he captures here perfectly how one simple idea blew up into the worldwide festival it is now.

Charting not only the rise of the festival but also interviewing many of the founding members of the Achievers, all who take their names from various characters and references from the film and as to be expected they are a mixed bunch to say the least from trivia master Bunny who is still pursuing her first big win at the festivals trivia contest, though to costume enthusiast Logjammin whose “Masterbation Manual” costume creates controversy amongst some of the festival attendees over the relevancy of its reference. However while coming from such varied backgrounds it is the love for this movie which unites them, while it is equally a nerdy love that they share with attendees to the festival being shown taking their costume inspiration from often the most obscure lines in the film, as this documentary highlights frequently, with costumes based on throwaway lines like Camel fuckers and face down in the dirt all making for surprising costume choices.

While the focus on the various members frequently provides many great insights into what it is that they love about the film, the real bonus here are the section which meet the real life inspirations for “The Dude” aswell as his best friend “Walter” who seem quite touched to have been the inspiration for these characters, as they put in appearances at the festivals and even highlight some of the plot points based on their own lives and misadventures with the Coen brothers. Still it would seem that for those involved in the film it seems to have been truly a fun experience, especially when not only actors who played minor characters, but also the main cast such as Jeff Bridges are more than willing to put in appearances as well as the documentary shows with Bridges taking to the stage to perform an acoustic cover of Bob Dylan’s “Man in Me”.

Curiously the documentary ends on almost a down note, as the establishing members speak of how the festival has moved away from its roots and perhaps in the process lost some of its original vision, with members like Bunny stating that they would rather just hang out with her friends from the group away from the festival. Needless to say the festival continues to grow, even as the original members move away and new additions join their ranks.

In all this really is a fun documentary for established fans with plenty of fun interviews with seemingly all the minor cast members with Bridges being the only main cast member interviewed which might be a little frustrating for those wanting more behind the scenes gossip, though at the same it also goes some way to explaining its appeal to the non-initiated.

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