Friday, April 6, 2012

Blue Like Jazz is an Unchristian Christian Movie


I remember a few years ago when I took a few friends to see a Christian play. The play was very good and had a good message, but for some reason the writer of said play thought that it needed a few swear words inserted in the beginning. (Personally, I don’t think that it is necessary to add such language to make the production relevant.) On the way home, there was a big discussion about how my friends were offended with the language. In fact, that’s all they could talk about. They totally missed the point of the production.

I share this story, because if you plan to see “Blue Like Jazz” this weekend, you too may be put off by some of the language that is featured in it. That and the overuse of alcohol and talk of sex. Keep in mind though that this story is based on real events and to sanitize them could make the story look and feel “off.” Director Steve, “we don’t need no colour code,” Taylor has stressed in the weeks prior to the film’s release that it is a “faith-based film” but that doesn’t necessarily make it “family-friendly” like so many other faith-based films out there.

“Blue Like Jazz” tells the story of Donald Miller, a young and Naive Christian living in Texas. He doesn’t smoke or drink. He is the assistant youth group leader. He has perfect Baptist hair. He is also just about to load up his beater of a car and go to a Christian university. His deadbeat father, who Don describes as The Hobo and barely knows, is a free spirit and pleads with Don to go to a liberal college like Reed in Portland, OR. This doesn’t interest Don one bit, until a situation back in his home church causes him to question everything he ever believed in, and almost in a fit or rebellion, travels to Reed College instead.

It is at Reed College that Don (Marshall Allman) learns how to drink, avoid his friends back home and pretend that he isn’t a believer. He meets new friends like:
  • Penny (Claire Holt), the sweet and attractive girl who organizes civil disobedience events around Portland.
  • Lauryn (Tania Raymonde), a lesbian who freely gives her opinion whether you want to hear it or not.
  • The Pope (Justin Welborn), a slacker taking nine years to complete his studies, wears a pope costume and dispenses useless guidance to his “followers.”
  • Yuri (Matt Godfrey), the Russian guy who senses that Don isn’t completely truthful about himself.

It is during this new “self-enlightenment” that Don discovers how much he hates the church and yet, still struggles to find meaning in his life. The movie takes Don down a big rabbit trail and it looks pretty bleak at times. I found myself partially wanting to give poor Don a hug and other times I wanted to slap him silly.  This is one of those films that you have to watch it almost all the way through before you get the payoff at the end. The last couple minutes of the film makes the first one and a half hours worth sitting through.

“Blue Like Jazz” is based on the best-selling book of the same title. It is the true life adventures by the real Donald Miller, who also has a cameo in the film. It was shot almost entirely in Portland and captures some of the odd personalities that live there.

While this is not a family film, I would recommend it to families with high-schoolers.
(Originally posted on Examiner.com)

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