Elizabethtown: Greatness vs. Success

Posted: October 11, 2011 by jperritt in Drama, Rom-com [romantic comedy]
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

I’m sure you scratched your head and said, ‘Elizabethtown? Never heard of it.’ At least that’s what the box office results tell us about this film. However, minus Susan Sarandon’s over-the-top monologue that didn’t work and a somewhat sappy romance with mediocre acting, I actually enjoyed the film for a few reasons.

First, I’m a big Cameron Crowe fan. He’s a great director who always uses great music (the second reason I like the movie) to tell his stories. I also like the movie because it’s a film that causes one to reflect on life and death. We live in a world that doesn’t spend much time reflecting on much of anything, so a film that gets me to think about the one shot we have at this life makes it a worthwhile film.

The film begins with the story of Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom), athletic shoe designer, whose product is about to be released to the entire world. But what the world doesn’t know, is that his shoe is a disaster. It’s a disaster that will cost his company close to a billion dollars – “That’s a lot of million”, Drew Remarks. He continues to repeat the phrase, “I’m fine.”, but the reality is, he’s far from it. He eagerly anticipates the world’s introduction to his incredible failure in the form of a shoe. As he’s reflecting on his failure, he makes this statement, “In that moment, I knew success, not greatness, was the only god the world served.”

Although we all don’t worship the god of success, by the world’s definition, it is a god that is highly worshiped and does tend to rear its ugly head in most of our lives from time-to-time.

Anyone knows that we can make gods out of anything – food, possessions, money, etc. Tim Keller says that something becomes a god when a good thing is turned into an ultimate thing. Much of what the world worships, and what the character of Drew Baylor was referring to, is success in the form of dollar bills.

Many times in Scripture Christians are told to focus on that which is unseen. Paul tells us, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” [2 Cor. 4:18] He is reminding us of many truths in this one verse.

First off, we are prone to focus on this world. We love money, nice houses, cars, comfort and pleasure. None of those things are bad in and of themselves, but when they become ultimate things they are sinful. Secondly, Paul is telling us in this verse that we are all going to die. We are going to leave what is seen and we are headed to an unseen reality that is more real than our current life. Lastly, and building off of the second reality, is that we must be willing to sacrifice. I don’t mean that you necessarily need to sacrifice money and possessions, rather, I mean that you might need to sacrifice your standing in the eyes of the world. Scripture is clear that we will have different priorities than the rest of the world. We will stand out, look different, and act different, because we have our eyes set on great things that might not look all that successful in the world’s opinion.

The world’s definition of success is not the Christian’s definition of success. Hollywood continues to crank out movies that are a box office success, but that does not mean they are great movies. I would actually argue that many great movies aren’t made because they won’t be ‘successful’ movies.

While Elizabethtown wasn’t Crowe’s best film, it did remind me of this great truth. Greatness does not always equal success, but success for a Christian is defined differently because of our focus on the next life. For the Christian, our success was achieved by Another, and it is this success that shifts or focus to His Coming Kingdom.

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