No Country for Old Men, the Big Lebowski, True Grit, O Brother, Where art Thou, Fargo…)takes us on a week long ride with struggling fictional 60’s folk singer, Llewyn Davis played by Oscar Isaac.
It doesn’t take long to realize that Llewyn feels like a punching bag of a character in this dark comedy. He is the likable (not lovable) loser who never seems to catch a break. Some of those missed breaks are self inflicted while others are simply out of Llewyn’s hands.
One of the highlights of the film is the soundtrack. Most of the songs were performed and recorded live which really adds to the music connecting with the viewers. Isaac’s performance as Davis is incredibly strong.
On top of that, the folksy music is just great stuff. One of my favorite moments in the movie is in the clip below of Llewyn and his friend, Jim (played by Justin Timberlake) as they do some studio recording work. The performance still cracks me up and shows off the subtle, classic Coen style humor of the movie.
Many will see Inside Llewyn Davis at as a story that seems to really go nowhere. Maybe that’s why I’ve heard it said that it takes a few viewings to understand and appreciate the film.
But on the first viewing there was one theological thing that stuck out to me and it was on the topic of gifts and expectations.
*Potential minor spoilers ahead*
Throughout the movie we watch as Llewyn tries to make it as a musician and struggles to make it financially. He becomes more and more reliant on his gift to give back to him only to be disappointed and let down. It leads to a defining couple of moments for Llewyn where he realizes he has to chose between his dream or being self sufficient.
Those moments make him resentful of his gift and his inability to get over the hump.
He’s really more of a backup guy than a front man.
Llewyn seems to learn an important lesson about his gift: It will let him down when he hordes it to himself.
When God created us he gave each of us gifts and we are to use them.
Because our gifts are for others and not for ourselves.
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” – I Peter 4.10
To often we look at our gifts as Llewyn did. We expect them to bring us happiness and joy. That’s not a bad thing, unless we did it at the expense of others. We demand people appreciate our talent. We demand proper pay for our gifts. We demand to be worshipped in a sense for the things we are good at.
But God tells us to use our talents to serve one another and build one another up.
Stop expecting your talents to satisfy you when you use them selfishly.
That’s why they are called gifts. You give them away.
In what seemed to be a powerful scene of the movie (to me anyway, the group I was with had a different take) Llewyn was reminded why he loved playing music. It was the connection it gave him with others.
It was in that way that his gifts gave him a reward.
When he saw his music connecting with others it in return gave him happiness.
We are creatures created in God’s image for the purpose of glorifying Him. By being created in his image, we were created to live in community just as God lives in community as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
And since we are created to live in community we will only ever find complete satisfaction in what gifts (regardless of how great or small they may be) when we use them to serve others.
“In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” – Acts 20.35