Wednesday, 02 May 2012
By Tom Zuniga
I recently saw Blue Like Jazz.
What’s Blue Like Jazz, you ask?
Isn’t that a book, you ask?
How can one “see” a book, you ask?
Why was this a real thing, you ask?
Well, I can answer all but one of those.
Blue Like Jazz was originally a book, yes, but it is now a film. The nonfiction book, written by the great Donald Miller, chronicles the author’s adolescent journey through faith with many spiritual essays.
Miller’s “sequel” of sorts to Blue Like Jazz, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, followed the adaptation of BLJ – indeed, Miller’s life – into a film, as well as elaborating on what it meant to live life like the fullest, richest story.
It was such a fascinating premise, turning a nonfiction book of spiritual essays into a fictional movie. Loved taking part in its resurrection from a certain stillborn death with a historic Kickstarter campaign.
Director Steve Taylor even CALLED ME ON THE PHONE to thank me for my help; that’s a voicemail message I’ll consistently hit “9” to save every 40 days.
After watching my Steve Taylor / Donald Miller autographed movie poster hang on my wall for well over a year, I finally sat in a theater and watched this long-awaited film unfold before my eyes.
By the end, said eyes were percolating with moisture.
Blue Like Jazz could be the first “Christian movie” that breaks the barriers of what a “Christian movie” is “supposed” to look like.
- There is swearing in this Christian movie.
- There is a lesbian in this Christian movie.
- There is a logically presented argument against God’s existence in this Christian movie.
- There are wild parties and drunkards in this Christian movie. Like, really wild and drunk. Not “Christian movie” wild and drunk.
- And ultimately, there is a PG-13 rating for this Christian movie.
This certainly ain’t no Kirk Cameron film; perhaps that’s what makes BLJ so refreshing. Bold.
At the core of the film is young Don — indeed, a pseudo-fictional/non-fictional representation of Donald Miller himself. Don grows up in the Bible Belt of Texas, only to flee home and start anew at Reed College in Portland, “the most godless college in America.”
Don quickly adapts to his new environment and as a result, grows quite rebellious. Don does things your conservative knitting grandmother would have a heart attack over.
But Don is real. Don isn’t faking anything. Don is sick of the hypocrisy entrenched within Christianity. Don wants to escape his association to the name of Jesus.
Like anyone in existence, Don just wants to fit in. Don wants friends. Don wants college to be fun and memorable, a grand old time.
Throughout his journey, Don encounters staunch atheists and Don encounters genuine believers. Tossed to and fro between opposing spiritual forces, Don must ultimately decide upon one side or the other.
Featured in the film are some of the book’s unique standout images: Reed College’s irreverent “pope,” the “Sexy Carrot,” and the confession booth, the latter of which was especially striking at movie’s end.
Blue Like Jazz is earnest and heartfelt as a young man desperately searches for where he belongs – where his faith belongs – amid a real world where:
- Yes, people swear.
- Yes, lesbians are real.
- And yes, there exist calm, rational arguments for God’s non-existence.
Don’s ultimate decision on faith left me in tears as the credits rolled — whether by sadness, jubilation, or some combination of both, you’ll have to go see for yourself. I highly recommend the investment.
I hope more “Christian movies” follow BLJ’s footsteps in the years to come. I pray the world’s cynical perception of “Christian movies” starts to shift. That the hypocritical perception of Christians turns as well — that the world would truly know us by our love.
For current theater listings, click here.
Did you read Blue Like Jazz? See the film? Thoughts?