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Blue Like Jazz (2012)
Friday, April 13, 2012
Mature thematic material, sexuality, drug and alcohol content, and some language.
Marshall Allman, Claire Holt, Tania Raymonde
Donald Miller, Steve Taylor, Ben Pearson
In "Blue Like Jazz," Don (Allman), a pious nineteen-year-old sophomore at a Texas junior college, impulsively decides to escape his evangelical upbringing for life in the Pacific Northwest at one of the most progressive campuses in America, Reed College in Portland.
Blue Like Jazz (2012) | Review
An Adept Adaptation
Here at HJ we cover "pop culture from a spiritual point of view". Another key component of the Hollywood Jesus message is that "all are welcome". Well, Blue Like Jazz is a piece of pop culture created by profoundly spiritual people. And it will challenge viewers even as it welcomes them to the discussion about matters of faith.
Based on the book of the same name written by Donald Miller, Miller and Director Steve Taylor reworked the book into a narrative screenplay that is remarkably successful in communicating a message while also taking viewers on an entertaining and genuine journey. One thing that sets Blue Like Jazz apart from other films created by or for a Christian audience is that it need not be viewed solely as a "message movie" but works as a coming-of-age journey while exploring ideas about God and faith. Which is refreshing for me.
Let's just get this out of the way straight off the bat. I don't feel that most Christian films have an authentic or genuine feel to them. In my opinion, by sterilizing the content of a film to make it family friendly and acceptable to the widest possible breadth of the Christian market, most Christian films lose all appeal to the mainstream audience. While there have been some breakout hits that could be used as evidence against my previous statement, I don't believe very many "Christian" films have been able to reach beyond the "preaching to the choir" audience. Blue Like Jazz is a film that speaks plain English, and not Christian-ese. For this reason alone I feel that it has better potential to reach a broad audience and give them some things to think about.
Blue Like Jazz follows a fictionalized Donald Miller (the likeable Marshall Allman) as he journeys off to Reed College in Portland, Oregon, leaving behind his Texas roots and Southern Baptist beliefs and eschewing the faith he once held so dear in order to make sense of his new life as a college student. As Don wrestles with classes and in relationships with people who are nothing like he once was, he grows in maturity and authenticity. But he holds the God of his former life at arms length as he begins to chart the course of his new life. As Don becomes a more authentic human, however, he begins feeling the tugs of a real and true God who seems to be much different from the one he grew up believing in.
Don's journey feels like one that takes place in the real world, a world that I recognize. His friends and family feel like real people with legitimate questions and passions that drive them. Blue Like Jazz tells a coming of age tale not unlike many of the great films about youth, only this time the focus lies squarely on Don's quest to make his peace with God. So yes, this is a Christian film. But as star Marshall Taylor pointed out to me in an interview I did with him (to be posted later here on HJ), this is also an American story. How many kids in this country have grown up "in the church" and gone off to school only to call into question everything they have known up to that point? For that matter, how many people across the world have been hit by a major challenge in life and been forced to revisit what they believed about life and God?
Believers and non-believers alike will find something to think about, laugh about, and resonate with in Blue Like Jazz. In my opinion, Donald Miller and Steve Taylor have knocked this project out of the park.
Copyright © 2012 Hollywood Jesus. All rights reserved.
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