Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Blue Like Jazz

posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexuality, drug and alcohol content, and some language
Profanity:Some strong language
Nudity/Sex:Gay and straight sexual references, some crude
Alcohol/Drugs:Drinking and drugs
Violence/Scariness:References to tragic world situations, family stress
Diversity Issues:A theme of the movie
Movie Release Date:April 20, 2012
DVD Release Date:August 6, 2012

Donald Miller’s best-selling collection of essays, Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality has become a crowd-financed and lightly fictionalized film about a Texas teenager from a sheltered Baptist community who goes to the famously free-thinking Reed College in Portland, Oregon.

Marshall Allman of “True Blood” plays Miller, whose Alice in Wonderland-style immersion in a world where everything is questioned and debated is disturbing the way jazz music is disturbing — it never resolves.  In Texas, the answers were always laid out in nice straight lines.  Everything resolves.  Miller’s estranged father, an intellectual who listens to jazz and lives in a trailer, tells him it is time to improvise, to challenge his ideas.  His father has arranged for him to be admitted to Reed.  When Miller begins to suspect for the first time that not everyone practices what they preach, even at church, he decides to give it a try.

“Forget everything you think you know,” he is told when he arrives.  “Sexual identity is  social construct,” explains a girl who is using the urinal next to him in the men’s room.  One student is handing out free bottles of water and another is handing out literature explaining why bottled water is a scourge and a fraud.  Students get credit for civil disobedience.  Even his most mundane beliefs are challenged: no one in Oregon carries an umbrella when it rains.  Why separate yourself from the elements?

The script by Miller, director Steve Taylor, and co-producer Ben Pearson, smooths out the story (the real Miller did not arrive at Reed until he was 30 and he audited some classes but did not enroll).  They wisely avoid the easy and obvious “fish out of water” confrontations.  Refreshingly, Miller and his classmate heretics are from the beginning almost always very tolerant of each other’s ways of approaching the world.  Indeed, while Miller is warned that the other students may not accept his faith, the most intolerant behavior comes from Miller when he feels betrayed in a very personal way by his church (the film’s only disappointing departure from the real story for the sake of narrative tidiness).

This is a very strong movie in its own terms, a thoughtful, smart, sensitive coming-of-age story.  Reedies will enjoy familiar sights from Powell’s bookstore (the site of a debate about the existence of God) to the scroungers’ table in the cafeteria.  Most important is that just as Miller’s book explores an expansive, golden-rule-based version of Christianity, the film itself takes sincere, faith-based story-telling out of the narrow confines of what is currently classified as “Christian entertainment.”  The real divide is not between believers and non-believers but between those who believe that questioning and tolerance bring them closer to God and those who prefer constant reinforcement of what they think they already know.  The vocabulary of faith should not be the exclusive property of one small subset of believers, and it is heartening to watch a movie that makes that point with such grace.

Parents should know that this film includes close-to-R level content like a college bacchanal, sexuality, drugs, and drinking, as well as strong language.

Family discussion: Whose view of faith in this film is closest to yours?  Whose surprised you the most?

 

If you like this, try: the Donald Miller book of essays that inspired the film and the documentary “Lord Save Us From Your Followers” with a real-life confession booth scene at Reed College’s Renn Fayre



Previous Posts

Contest Winner -- "Earth to Echo's" GoPro Camera
Thanks to all who entered!  This contest had far more entries than any other I've ever run.  Congratulations to the lucky winner! WINNER OF THE GOPRO CAMERA: Susan D. Burkburnett, TX  

posted 11:54:55pm Jul. 29, 2014 | read full post »

Intuition -- A Short Film from Danielle Lurie
I love this short film from Danielle Lurie about a young woman who needs to learn to listen to her heart, with a wonderful performance by Montse Muñoz. [vimeo]https://vimeo.com/101953117[/vimeo]

posted 10:09:01am Jul. 29, 2014 | read full post »

Interview: Joseph Nasser of "Amber Alert: Terror on the Highway"
Reserve Police Officer Joseph Nasser produced Amber Alert: Terror on the Highway to help raise awareness of the Amber Alert system. It stars Tom Berenger as a man on the edge, making a dead rush for Mexico and kidnapping two young girls along the way. He is hotly pursued by police chief Martha Geig

posted 8:00:33am Jul. 28, 2014 | read full post »

"Guardian of the Galaxy's" Awesome Mixtape
One of the many pleasures of "Guardians of the Galaxy," opening this week, is the soundtrack featuring some 70's classics from an "Awesome Mixtape" played by Peter "Star Lord" Quill (Chris Pratt).  Here are some of the highlights. "Hooked on a Feeling" by Blue Swede [youtube]http://www.youtub

posted 8:00:21am Jul. 27, 2014 | read full post »

Comic-Con 2014: Day 2
Day 2 of Comic-Con included: an interview with "Sharknado" and "Sharknado 2" screenwriter Thunder Levin, a buggy lunch with Boxtrolls, press events with the directors and casts of four films, and appearing on the Rotten Tomatoes panel, where each attendee was given a paddle with a ripe tomato on on

posted 10:04:47pm Jul. 26, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.