I don’t like Christian movies.
Facing the Giants, Fireproof, The Chronicles of Narnia… I don’t like being dragged to poorly-made movies that hamhandedly try to feed me a moral lesson that I already agreed with. I don’t like being expected to like them just because they coincide with my faith. And I don’t like other people seeing cliched stories, awkward dialogue, and insincere characters as the best that Christian media has to offer.
But I’m pleasantly surprised to say that I love Blue Like Jazz.
I’d avoided the movie due to harsh words from some critics, but a recommendation from a friend convinced me to give it a shot.
Despite its detractors, I thought the movie was very well done. I’m sure there were flaws I missed or overlooked, but I enjoyed the acting (especially the characters of Don and the Pope), its offbeat style and sense of humor, and the sincerity of the story, which was thought-provoking and emotionally compelling.
The issue may be one of audience. Blue Like Jazz is not really for the traditional Christian audience. Its irreverence and non-conservative sensibilities may offend many, and it doesn’t really deal with issues of purity or holiness. On the other hand, it’s not really for non-Christian audiences either. It doesn’t try to convert non-believing viewers or provide answers to sweeping theological issues.
So who is Blue Like Jazz for?
Well…it’s for me. And maybe for you. It’s for Christians who have been disenfranchised. It’s for those of us who grew up in a Christian environment, but didn’t quite click with all of the trappings. For those of us who get embarrassed by politicized religion, hatemongers, and dumb Christians.
Blue Like Jazz is a semi-autobiographical coming of age film based on the book by Donald Miller. It follows Don, a sharp high-school graduate and dyed-in-the-wool Southern Baptist. In response to a series of hypocrisies, he impulsively enrolls at Reed College, an extremely progressive liberal arts campus.
After a hefty dose of subculture shock, Don quickly learns to hide his religious upbringing in the closet, blending in with the student body. Over the course of his freshman year, events force Don to come to terms with what he truly believes.
Despite how that sounds, the movie isn’t trying to teach a lesson. The characters aren’t flat straw-men set in place for theological arguments. The plot isn’t a stale framework to show that secular life is bad and Christian life is good. Instead, Blue Like Jazz is the story of one man’s personal journey. You see the conclusions he comes to, but you’re not forced to accept them yourself.
I can’t promise that Blue Like Jazz will hit you the same way it hit me. But if growing up in a Christian subculture has left you cynical and jaded, I invite you to check it out. It left me encouraged and filled with a renewed sense of purpose.