Review: Blue Like Jazz- An Odd Tale of Self Discovery
Blue Like Jazzis a 2012 adaptation of the celebrated Christian author Donald Miller's semi-autobiographical book of the same name, directed by Steve Taylor, Miller co-wrote the screenplay with Ben Pearson and Taylor.
Both the novel and film Blue Like Jazz follow author Donald Miller as he struggles with his growing and sometimes turbulent faith in God. Although the novel is less plot-driven than the film, both work to show how Donald's resolution towards his Christian faith is not only due to his own self-reflection, but also due to the stories and experiences of those around him. Both works help to portray how seeing the passion and experience of others can impact the way we see ourselves.
The film is reminiscent of the Coen Brother's 2008 dark comedy A Serious Man in many ways. Just like Larry Gopnik, A Serious Man's protagonist, Don (played by Marshall Allman, based on Miller) questions God's existence, religion's implications, limitations and reflections on his miserable life. After being unable to find eternal solace and peace in his life, Don leaves his hometown when his promiscuous, separated parents refused to accept his religious beliefs, and he ends up in Reed College, a liberal arts college in Portland, Oregon.
According to some of Donald's fellow Christians, Reed is known as a godless and heathen school. In the novel, Donald has no shame in telling fellow students about his Christianity. The film takes a different approach and showcases Donald hiding his faith out of fear of being judged by his fellow classmates. Don soon finds his place though when he develops a crush on a classmate named Penny (played by Claire Holt), a rebellious, free-spirited and sympathetic girl who hated the corporate culture and their apparent corruption. The college's current 'Pope' (played by a humorous Justin Welborn) also acts as Don's guardian angel. The Pope's own ambiguity towards religion, overshadowed by his molestation by a priest as a child, makes Don even more stubborn and assertive in assisting the Pope with his random mockeries of the local church The on-off relationship of Don and Penny comes to a serious halt when she finds out about his mother's pregnancy by the church's married bishop, a sad truth that left Don bitter and at odds with God.
Blue Like Jazz is a courageous, honest, comic, yet tragic account of a young man with religious upbringings discovering himself and his relationship to God. The theme of both loving and resenting something bigger than yourself is part of what makes the book and film relatable to a larger demographic other than those of the Christian faith. The emotions that come with being passionate about a way of life is something anyone can relate to.
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