MENTION ‘dude’ in the title of your film and one’s mind immediately drifts to Coen Brothers’ classic The Big Lebowski and 2000 comedy Dude, Where’s My Car?
Yet the only things Olivia Milch’s Netflix Original Dude owes to either of these films is excessive drug use and – in relation to Dude, Where’s My Car – a dog that gets high on weed.
Unlike those surreal drug-fuelled tales, Dude is a somewhat limping and frustrating teen drama that begins with the tragic death of soon-to-be graduate Thomas. Fast forward one year and his little sister Chloe (Kathryn Prescott) is preparing to graduate along with best friend – and Thomas’ former girlfriend – Lily (Lucy Hale). The two continue to grapple with their tragic loss and with an imminent – and uncertain – future.
A fog of weed smoke and uninteresting, unfunny conversations hangs over the first half of the film. At one point the girls sit around a swimming pool discussing the lofty subject: ‘what if you had dick fingers and vagina ears?’ My question would be: Does this material seriously land with teen audiences?
As was the case for Netflix peer #RealityHigh, too much of this film feels as though it has been written inside a bubble with humour and story threads that are as tiring as they are nauseating.
It is only later on when this bubble is burst in favour of attempts at genuine emotion that the film connects. Kathryn Prescott is the standout in these heavier dramatic moments. A scene where she sits on her brother’s bench and listens to his old voicemails on repeat is a highlight of the film.
We should not forget auxiliary friends Rebecca (Awkwafina) and Amelia (Alexandra Shipp) – who could have easily been lifted from the script. To the credit of Dude, their relatively consequence-less inclusion in the film is acknowledged with a genuinely funny joke that I will resist spoiling for those who actually get far enough into the film.
Still this film could have been streamlined to better effect. Dude improves as it goes on, but it is nowhere near enough to rescue it.
Dude, this is another Netflix Original you can probably skip.
This was review 20/30 in April’s Close-up Culture Monthly Film Challenge – Female Filmmakers.