When I first watched “Blue Like Jazz” in its limited release I knew very little about the film other than it was based on Donald Millers very popular semi-autobiographical book . I would classify Blue Like Jazz as a Christian film with a slight disclaimer; it’s rated pg-13 (gasp!) and contains some mature thematic material. To quote one of my favorite scenes from the film “Is this going to get weird?” “Yeah, probably…”
Donald Miller (Marshall Allman) is a sophomore at a Texas community college who is desperate to escape his religious upbringing in the Bible Belt after dealing with some drama at his Southern Baptist church. He takes the advice of his free-spirited father (knows as The Hobo) and enrolls at the notoriously liberal Reed College where he enters into a path of self-discovery. Despite the somewhat cliché, there is a lot more depth to this story than your typical coming of age drama.
With other Christian movie offerings like Fireproof and Heaven is for Real it is nice to see a film about faith rooted in reality. I found the dynamic between Donald and the other students at Reed believable, especially his scenes with The Pope (Justin Wellborn) and Penny (Claire Holt) who both contribute to a major character arc in the film.
Director Steve Taylor takes a few creative liberties that don’t always pay off. There is a strange sequence of a bunny chasing a carrot that I was never quite able to understand. I also got the feeling that I missed some of the richness of the story without the novel to fill in the gaps. What I could appreciate was the odd ball humor and satire, especially during the scenes at Donald’s home church. I still can’t get the image of children hitting a cross piñata filled with communion cups out of my head!
Blue Like Jazz carefully avoids becoming too preachy and it’s intentions are well thought, delivering a powerful closing scene that had me thinking long after I left the theatre. Three and a half out of five stars.
Favorite Quote: “Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself.”
Fun Fact: The movie was saved by a kickstarter project after it didn’t have enough funding to move forward and became (at that time) the highest funded project to date.