Blue Like Jazz: Movie Review

“I need to say…I’m sorry.” For the Crusades. For calling evangelistic events crusades. For people in churches and denominations who do not know how to get along, much less care to try. For being more concerned about being right than loving others. For hiding my own sins while criticizing the sins of others. For not being real in a western world which is dying in the chaos of affluent existential crises. After all, “if you are going to have an existential crisis, Portland in winter is hard to beat.” Not to mention the other seasons, too.

Blue Like Jazz premiered this weekend. I watched it in the city of Roses, itself. A resident of the Portland area since 1995, I have grown to love this city. It’s people. It’s geography and culture. Especially Reed College: the epicenter of Portland’s weirdness. Young brilliant minds from all over the world liberated to be who they wish to be, albeit via oddly uniform expressions of rebellion.

The film offers a fictionalized portrayal based on Donald Miller’s book by the same title. I read the book when it was first published. It was a catalyst in changing my perspective on life and regarding people outside of my faith tradition. The movie pushed me just a little further toward an existential precipice. In a good way.

It is worth noting that this is not a family movie. It is rated PG-13. There is drug, alcohol, and sexual content, as well as swearing. Also, there are serious mature themes dealing with childhood rape, adultery, and both heterosexual and lesbian relationships. It also has some surrealistic fantasy-like interludes highlighting the progression of the plot points. Took me off guard at first, and then I remembered that I live in Portland and weirdness is normal, even desireable.

Blue Like Jazz does not sugar coat reality. It will offend many church-going people, especially those who are not accustomed to the notion that some of their church beliefs and behaviors might be a bit weird, or even hypocritical. Not to mention downright offensive to God. If you are easily offended, I suggest tamer fare elsewhere.

But then, I don’t perceive this as a movie whose first audience is Christians. It seems fitting that it is set in Portland, one of the least churched cities in the USA. If you are an atheist, an agnostic, an adult victim of child abuse, a lesbian or homosexual who has been bashed by the church, or a disillusioned (former/or current) church attendee who is trying to figure out your own existential crisis, this film just might be for you. In advance, I want to say I am sorry. Not for the film. But for people like me who hurt people like you at some point in your lives.

You might be wondering, “Is God real?” The film explores this and other questions. Not in the typical preachy way that Christian films have historically had. In a human way, keeping it real. After all, “We’re human. We’re flawed. We all have our crap.”

If you are a Christian who is able to suspend your personal biases against the abovementioned content warnings for a couple of hours, I encourage you to go. If your heart is tender, bring the hankies. You’re going to need them. I cried all the way home.

2 responses to “Blue Like Jazz: Movie Review

  1. Never read the book, but we had a middle school pastor who decided to abandon that ministry so he could pursue what the book taught…only he did not want to give up the salary…just the middle schoolers! When he was relieved of his position and salary he tried to take the church down! He said the book was telling him what to do! I don’t think so.

    The music/movement classes I teach have put me in the company of interesting people. Very few are from my church…or any church for that matter. A couple of years ago a group of lesbian mothers started coming. Freaked me out at first, but God brought to mind John 3:17. God did not send Jesus to condemn people. He loved them right where they are. A few months ago I was at the mall and a group of them were gathered as their kids played in the play space, so I sat down and chatted. In the back of my mind I thought simultaneously what would Jesus do and what would people think. Jesus won. A couple of weeks ago I saw a group of my mothers on the news protesting for women’s rights…and not the good ones!

    When we were holding Fall Festival at our church, some would inevitably be offended if a child showed up dressed like a witch or Satan, etc. I always said that those were the kids wearing signs saying, “We need Jesus.”. I urged people to reach out and love those the most.

    It is funny how Christians view sin in degrees. This one is bad, this one is worse…but this one, well, you can’t be too hard on. All sin separates. We all have sinned. Christians have been forgiven and should therefore be more forgiving, accepting and loving.

  2. I appreciate the comment, Nancy. Real world stories require the wisdom and grace that only God can provide. Thank you for representing Christ to people in a loving way!

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