Blue Like Jazz Leaves Questions Unaddressed
- Friday, April 13, 2012
DVD Release Date: August 7, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: April 13, 2012 (limited)
Rating: PG-13 (for mature thematic material, sexuality, drug and alcohol content, and some language)
Run Time: 106 min.
Director: Steve Taylor
Cast: Marshall Allman, Justin Welborn, Jason Marsden, Claire Holt, Tania Raymonde, Eric Lange, Matt Godfrey, Jeff Obafemi Carr
Are you a disaffected Evangelical? Are you questioning the faith of your childhood, wandering in the wilderness, struggling to figure out who God is and whether or not the Bible is reliable? Then Blue Like Jazz, based on Donald Miller’s best-selling 2003 book of the same name (though with the added descriptor “Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality”), is the story for you.
If, on the other hand, you feel confident about your faith and are more at peace than restless about spiritual things, Miller’s story might strike you as an unsurprising entry among the burgeoning number of tales told by Christians who are critical of the church.
Why is Don (Marshall Allman) upset? At age 19, he’s active in his Southern Baptist congregation. If only the adults in his life were as upstanding as he is. Don’s deadbeat dad, who lives in a trailer and has a reputation as a free spirit, encourages Don to break out of his Christian ghetto and attend the liberal-arts focused Reed College rather than a religious school. Don, greatly disillusioned upon learning that his mom has been fooling around with the church’s youth pastor, somewhat reluctantly agrees.
Upon arriving at college, Don encounters women using the urinals in the men’s room, a student who dresses like the Pope (Justin Welborn) while handing out condoms, and open expressions of lesbian lust by a new acquaintance (Tania Raymonde) who has no patience with Christian morality. “Get in the closet, Baptist boy,” she tells him.
Soon Don “just want(s) to fit in,” so he starts getting drunk and distancing himself from the faith in which he’s been brought up.His friend Penny (Claire Holt) shows Don that following Christ isn’t something of which he should be ashamed.
It’s not that Miller’s story, as adapted for the screen by the author, Steve Taylor and Ben Pearson (the latter two teamed on the script for Taylor’s 2009 directorial debut The Second Chance), isn’t worth telling. Distributor Roadside Attractions, the company behind the release of Winter’s Bone, Bella and Goodbye Solo, saw something in Taylor’s film that it thought would connect with audiences. Perhaps the movie, like the book, will tap into a spiritual restlessness in today’s society.
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