5 Reasons I Loved Blue Like Jazz The Movie

I received an invitation to see a screening of Blue Like Jazz The Movie a few weeks ago, and to be honest, due to the craziness of my schedule, I wasn’t planning to attend until I read THIS. It seems the “christian movie establishment” is decrying the film. That fact alone was enough to get me to the screening. I’m so glad I went.

The movie is based on the New York Times best-selling book Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. I read the book when it was first released and loved it. It was honest, refreshing and different. And to be candid, those three words don’t really describe most of my “christian” book experiences.

Here are 5 reasons I loved the movie:

1. It wasn’t hokey. I love a great movie. Pan’s Labyrinth, The Matrix, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Crash and most recently, Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris are just a few of my favorites. All, I repeat, ALL, the movies I have seen made by christians with a christian intent have been hokey. Terrible. Embarrassing. Hokey acting, hokey directing, hokey story line, everything hokey…you’ve seen them. This movie wasn’t hokey. Now, I’m not saying it is Academy-Award quality by any means, but it was a quantum-leap for movies made by christians that contains christian intent.

2. It hit home. I’m a baby-boomer. The honest portrayal of church shortcomings really pegged my life experience. It was interesting talking afterwards with some of my 20 and 30 something friends who have never really been part of a traditional evangelical church, and they missed the point and thought it was a little over the top. I thought it needed to be said. At least, for my generation.

3. It actually portrayed real life. A recurring and chilling disappointment for me with the CCM (contemporary christian music) business and the CBA (christian booksellers association) has been the refusal of the gatekeepers of these organizations to allow art to be created that portrays life as it really is. This movie has drugs, lesbians, partying, existential questions, college life, pregnancy outside marriage, sex with ministers and more. In other words, real life. A pivotal quote in the movie reads like this, “Life is like jazz, it never resolves.” The christian business gatekeepers steadfastly refuse to admit that fact, and the mainstream christian consumer continues to bury their heads in the sand of the subculture and buy into the propaganda.

4. It had a great score. From the Blue Like Jazz The Movie blog: “It’s been said that the movie business is unique because it combines all the arts into one. Music within a film will build tension, create emotion, and is paramount to the viewer connecting with story. Danny Seim, of Menomena fame, was the first and only choice to create the score to drive Blue Like Jazz. His style and personality fits indie music, Portland, and Blue Like Jazz so perfectly.” I liked the music. A lot. I would have expected nothing less from my friend and director of the movie Steve Taylor.

5. I got lost. I have heard it said that great acting causes one to lose themselves in the story. That happened to me. For the first-time ever in a movie made by christians, I got lost. For about ten minutes, in a movie screening, where the intent is to critique, I was immersed in the story. I had tears. The story nailed me where I am at this point in my life. Maybe, just maybe, that will happen to you. If so, your money and time will be well-spent.

Plan to go see Blue Like Jazz The Movie on opening day, April 13. If your experience is anything like mine, you will be glad you did. And if you are a christian, I think you will be proud that the creative team that produced this movie actually attempted to create culture, instead of replicating it. That deserves a round of applause.

Question: If you have read the book or watched the screening, what were your impressions?

15 Responses to “5 Reasons I Loved Blue Like Jazz The Movie”

  1. Can. Not. Wait. Loved the book.

    Only thing I’m bummed about is that tour didn’t include a Phoenix stop.

    The lesson I learned in recovery is akin to the artistry you describe as employed in BLJ: “Accepting, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is–not as I would have it to be.”

    • Thanks, Chad. What a powerful lesson! “Accepting, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is–not as I would have it to be.”

  2. I cannot wait to see it on April 13. Even more so because of the Christian movie industry outcry. A friend and I were talking about it when the news came out and were just so mad that they were choosing to take an issue with a film that focuses on real issues.

    I so agree with your point about the CBA. It’s sad really. The one thing that really bothers me is that people are watching these movies and thinking that is really what the Christian life is about. So. Not. True.

    Of course I have a lot of issues with the “Christian” establishment anyway so…..

  3. I think finding a place (movie, church, gallery, concert) that is truly Christian that you are comfortable taking some of your creative non-Christian types has always been a challenge. They did a great job making this movie with the money they had; I never felt like I was in a B-movie. First rate all the way around. (it’s almost an impossibility to “close the deal” with folks in a 90 minute movie/conversation, etc, on becoming a Christian)

    But I do understand some of the kick-back from CBA/GMA folks. There are times when they have been used by artists more interested in their art than the gospel, and that is not the work they are called to. Our job as artists, as I see it, is to create, then love. If we have to explain what we are doing, it’s probably not very good art. God will do the rest!!

    As always, thanks for sharing, Randy.

  4. Looking forward to it.

    Honestly, for years I’ve run from the label “Christian.” I’ve decided to embrace it and do my part to reclaim it.

    • Awesome, Bryan. I would love to know what you think about it once you’ve seen it.

  5. Randy, spot on review. I saw it in Austin at Gateway 16…not SXSW. I tweeted to Don my overwhelming desire to see BLJ after hearing of the “mainstraim christian” community’s outcry over the film. One post I read said that the Sherwood folks are banning anyone who works on BLJ from ever working on one of their films. Is that really going to be an issue? Doubt it.

  6. Randy,
    Can’t wait to see it here in Nashville on opening day, 4/13. I’ve read the book a couple of times. When I started writing, my friend in publishing said that it was a “MUST READ” for a Christian writer. I found it refreshing, not hokey as you say and honest about real life and what the world is like. We had an interesting breakout session at the C3 Conference (Christ:Church:Culture) in Nashville a few weeks ago with Erick Goss, Managing Partner of Creative Trust Media. Those in the film industry agreed that “Christian films” are typically poorly made, have an unrealistic message about the Christian faith and do a disservice to the GOOD NEWS that we should be spreading. One lady in the room said that even though she is Christian she would NEVER work for a Christian film company again. She said that she wasn’t allowed to be creative at all and was mistreated as an employee, all the things that you would think would be wonderful about working for a Christian organization.
    I’m praying that Don’s movie, BLUE LIKE JAZZ breaks the mire we’ve gotten into in portraying Christian themes: the mire of mediocrity. Can’t wait to see it and pray that it will start REAL dialogues about our world, our culture and Christian faith.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    • Thanks for joining the conversation, Agatha. I can’t wait to see what you think…

  7. Still trying to figure out who the Christian movie establishment is? Maybe Don and Steve and the rest of the gang are starting it. Just saying …

  8. Rick,

    I wish that were so. The VP of Provident which really is the “Christian movie establishment” admitted to Christianity Today in writing (see their website) that she indeed did what Steve said she did. Sad, but unfortunately true.

  9. A close friend of mine and I attended a private screening of the film last week and have been talking about it nonstop since then. I’m attending another screening today, actually.

    I think the main difference between Blue Like Jazz and movies produced by the Christian Movie Establishment is that typically, movies from the CME are produced with an idea in mind. They have an idea they are trying to promote and they build a story around it and everything resolves tidily and that is not how good art is made and that does not reflect true life, it doesn’t resonate with anyone.

    No one paints a painting with the intention of you seeing a specific thing. Paintings happen out of passion. Music happens out of passion. They are personal stories, and if the story is good, it resonates with everyone else. It feels like your own story. And that’s what Blue Like Jazz does.

    Blue Like Jazz tells a story that feels like my own story. Yes, the details are different in some places, but the essence of it is intricately familiar to me. Life ~doesn’t resolve. I have never pretended to be a perfect cookie cutter Christian woman who has it all together. I’ve been a mess. I am a mess. That’s what makes Christ’s glory shine so brilliantly. It’s disappointing that the CME seems to think that the world needs another movie that is sweeping the truth under the rug, that pretends to have all the answers and presents a tidy, pretty package when actually, a film that tells the truth about our faults and our doubts and our valleys reveals Christ’s glory.

    Anyway, wow, didn’t mean to make that comment so long! Go see the film! It’s good stuff.

Created by Randy Elrod

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