The Newt Review: The Blue Like Jazz Movie
I read Blue Like Jazz years ago, way back when it was the the hottest book on the contemporary Christian literature scene, and it resonated with me so strongly that I sought out, acquired, and devoured all of Donald Miller’s literary works as soon as I could. When I reached “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” (still one of my favorite books of all time) and read that Don was working on a film version of his now-legendary memoir, I was thrilled. As soon as I found out that the limited-release theatrical run of the Blue Like Jazz movie would be playing at a local theater, I rushed out to see it. The movie exceeded all of my expectations in a lot of ways, and I considered writing a review then and there, but time swept the idea out of the back of my mind. Now that the Blue Like Jazz DVD is fresh, hot, and available to the public, I thought I’d seize the second chance to recommend it to everyone I know. To that end, here’s a review!
First, a disclaimer – Blue Like Jazz is not your typical squeaky-clean, come-to-Jesus Christian film. The bulk of the story takes place on the campus of extremely liberal Reed College, and both the setting and the characters therein come across as entirely true-to-life. That realism goes a long way toward making the movie great, but it also means that it’s not one you’ll want to watch with the kids.
That said, if you’re not a kid, you will most definitely want to watch Blue Like Jazz. While the book of the same name is a collection of essays and thoughts on spirituality, the Blue Like Jazz movie focuses in on one chapter of Don’s life – his first year in college – with a tightly-scripted intensity. After a shocking revelation at home pushes Don away from his Southern Baptist upbringing, he heads off to Reed College in Portland, “the most godless campus in the country”, to try to escape from God. As he navigates the ups and downs of his new life and befriends several wildly different fellow students – from straight-laced activist Penny to the unpredictable robe-and-miter wearing ball of energy known only as “The Pope” – Don comes back again and again to the question of whether or not God exists and, if he does, whether or not he’s worth following.
Blue Like Jazz is far and away the most thought-provoking movie I’ve ever seen. Every scene, every line is designed to raise questions and offer insights, often on multiple levels, and if you’re willing to engage your mind with those questions you’ll find a wealth of food for thought. Best of all, all of this thoughtfulness is encased in an atmosphere of complete authenticity lacking in most stereotypical “Christian film”. The characters are real people, they express genuine emotion, and their stories are the sort with which anyone can identify. I’ve seen the movie three times, and upon every viewing the final scene brings me to the brink of tears (in a good way). If you’re a human being who likes to think and appreciates a good story, I can’t recommend Blue Like Jazz highly enough. Five out of five stars. It’s available in Redbox and at Walmart and Best Buy all over the country, so you’ve got no excuse – go check it out! You won’t regret it.