Thoughts on Blue Like Jazz the Movie

Blue Like Jazz the Movie logoBlue Like Jazz as a movie is something I’d been looking forward to for a long time.  It’s pretty obvious that I’m a big fan of Donald Miller’s books.

I remember first reading it and loved the questions, humor and general writing style. It sparked a whole conversation among leaders in my church and other churches a few years ago about the relevance of modern church, problems and potential solutions.  It at least shed some interesting light on the subject, rocked a few boats, and I think churches have changed for the better since.

Basically the story is about a young man’s journey to find the world, himself and God outside the confines of the religious establishment.  For some edge they addressed things like affairs in leadership (a youth pastor played by Jason Marsdon who I remember from old TGIF sitcoms and is just creepy enough to play the role) and child abuse from ordained priests and the ways people have been hurt by it.

Don, the primary character is frustrated with religion and goes to Portland, Oregon, where he attends Reed College, known for prestige, encouraging intellectual thought, and wild parties.  Here he deals with how a Christian expresses his faith as well with his own doubts, and times when he wanted to turn away.

He eventually comes to the message that whether in the church or from the world, everyone is flawed and we need to forgive and accept others, despite all the problems.

As for the movie, the entertainment value was great.  There were a few moments that had me cracking up.  I really like that they kept the feel of the book, a very quirky “keep Portland weird” kind of view on life and spirituality in spite of the cinematic changes.

I had wondered how they were going to make a movie of a book that was made up of semi-random looking essays.  They changed some of it to make it more cinematic to the point where it was almost fictional.  I don’t mind that so much, although I do miss some of the characters like Tony the Beat Poem, Paul from his previous volkswagon book, and of course Mark the Cussing Pastor (who in real life is none other than Mark Driscoll.)

The Portland sites were awesome.  Biking along the waterfront, which I’ve done once or twice as it’s like bike heaven there.  Wasn’t really familiar with the Reed campus though.  Though I’ve grown up in Southeast, the Reed thing just wasn’t my thing.  Powell’s of course, awesome.

I really like that they put in the lines, “But what if we’re not alone?  What if these stars are note on a page of music swirling in the blue like jazz?”  A slight variation from one of my favorite parts of the book, but still keeping the feel.  A master wordsmith is Miller.

Some of the controversy was the use of course humor and some profanity.  They wanted to differentiate from the mainstream Christian movies by not being “safe” and showing what it’s really like in the world.

My opinion on this is, though I wasn’t majorly offended I was kind of  annoyed.  Look, I work in a warehouse, so I’ve been exposed to all kinds of humor, and I’ve cursed once in a while.  But I’ve also learned that in finding myself as a Christian, while I don’t want to be “safe” to the point of being a pious hypocrite, I also want the confidence in myself to not cuss or join in the course humor just to show how “relevant” I am or just wanting to fit in and look cool.

Just remember if you’re used to conservative church settings you might be offended.  But if you tend to wrestle with the deep questions you might be interested.  Because of my own squeaky clean conservative views I’ll neither recommend nor unrecommend the movie.  However I would still strongly recommend the book “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years”, a better book by Miller in my opinion.

Category: Review, Spiritual Thoughts |

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