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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Wednesday Movie Night: Blue Like Jazz (2012)

If you're a fan of the book Blue Like Jazz then leave your expectations this movie will be like that at the door, and if you're a new viewer then well there is nothing to really inform you. Probably where much of the disappointment in this film lies is the expectation that people would walk away from with it with the same vibe that the book gave them that made many love it so much, but instead the film tries to put together a story weaved of many people together to make a statement.

Don Miller has grown up in church, and under the care of his single mother. He visits his father infrequently, and seems to have a small view of him considering his contact with him. Upon discovering the secret relationship his mother was carrying with a church member he leaves his dream of attending a nearby Baptist college, and heads out for what is labeled the most godless college in America, Reed college. When he gets there he finds his faith disappearing among his desire to fit in, but when he meets Penny he finds she could be the person that opens up his identity again to a broader one that it was before.

Two main audiences probably showed up to this film: The readers of the book and Christians who like seeing Christian films. With this happening this probably is why the dislike was so strong for a film that actually isn't that bad. Readers of the book found the story changed drastically to give the movie more of a story than a "self-help" dialogue. It wasn't more so a focus on theology than it was exploring why the people of Reed were so disgruntled against Christianity. If you're a Christian who likes other nice Christian films than you walked out probably disgusted by this one as it stays real with the language and actions of people who aren't living a lifestyle that people who are in a Christian faith do. The lead character Don even does things to turn on his own faith.

The acting is better than expected. Claire Holt is a tad one-dimensional as Penny, but she does provide a good character to conflict with the person that Don is becoming while away at Reed. Marshall Allman also does the part of Don real well because his balances being unlikable at times when Don is trying to please everyone, and likable when he realizes his own lost humanity. You also have others that portray their characters to the fullest like The Pope (Justin Welborn). His change isn't ever in your face, but the ending scene between him and Don is worth watching the whole movie for. There is also Lauryn (Tania Raymonde) who shows us some of the most depth in the film over her heartbreak regarding romance. The characters are all kept real though, and besides Don they don't go over the dramatic changes into Christianity just because the lead character preached to them.

There are a few scenes that could have been left out though that had they not been in the movie would have been a lot better. The first half hour of the movie is awkward to get through. Don's church ways are very over the top, and honestly a little too zany even for people who have been in a church environment and knows how churches can be. Then there is the scene featuring Don running away from home, and going to Reed, but instead of seeing Don we seem him as a rabbit driving a car. It's been a while since reading the book, but the guess is that this ties in with it. The problem is if you have never read the book, nor can remember the whole thing the scene is just weird.

Blue Like Jazz sadly seems misunderstood. If the audience goes into a movie expecting one thing, and gets another it can have a bad effect on how people walk away talking about it. If this had been a film without already a small following to it, and without the Christian label it might have done better. It has a Christian message, but it really isn't for the family market by any means. Much of the content is for people in their 20s-30s, and the lesson isn't one that sways to either side.

Rating 4 of 5.

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