Saturday, April 14, 2012

Blue Like Jazz (8.8/10)

I received a copy of Blue Like Jazz when I was 21 from a friend who lived in Portland. I read the book at a time in my life when my faith had become something formulaic-a set of dos and don'ts. I was sort of disenchanted and jaded in a lot of ways. Donald Miller's writing acted as a catalyst for me to pursue a real, living God. The book itself is among a small handful of books that have helped shape and form the foundation of my faith. I have now purchased, and given away, more copies of this book than I can count.  I typically give the book to people who are tired of the church, cynical about Jesus and/or religion, or have been hurt by someone (or multiple "someones") who represented Jesus in a crappy way. I say all of this about the book because I had pretty high expectations, and a certain level of apprehension, before I saw the film tonight. When I heard about the movie's production and its amazing Kickstarter story, I was nervous. Christian films have a track record of being...well...horrendous at best. To be fair, I don't believe that Miller and the film's director, Steve Taylor, would even classify the film as a "Christian" one to begin with. The final result was a well shot, well acted, story with honest dialogue about Christianity featuring seemingly authentic people. It was refreshing, as weird as it sounds, to hear people swear, drink beer, and operate in a human fashion in the film (attributes that are distinctly absent from most christiany films). This was not a sanitized adaptation of the novel by any stretch. I feel that the beginning scenes (in Texas) were the film's weakest points, as the characters seemed forced and almost too stereotypical. Although I know youth pastors like the one featured in the film (Kenny), he felt almost to self-unaware. Perhaps it just made me uncomfortable? Also, some of the computer generated sequences may feel out of place for viewers who haven't read the book (even to some who have). I think the film was at its strongest, when Don was experiencing "conflict" at Reed college and throughout his interactions with Penny. Marshall Allman did a great job playing Don. I was also satisfied with the film's "resolution." From a writing standpoint, much of the standout dialogue was taken directly from Miller's memoir. I appreciate the way he weaves words together. Through his writings, I have become someone who appreciates people's stories more. One critique many Christians will have of the film is that it does not present a clear "Gospel" message. In other words, the film does not clearly articulate people's need for Christ for redemption from sin. While I agree that the film does not do this; I would also argue that this is not Miller and Taylor's purpose for making the movie. One of Miller's quotes states: "Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something, before you can love it yourself." I think that is one of the film's main tenets. It is clear that the filmmakers love Jesus and appreciate art. It would be hard for a viewer to walk away from the film and miss that. I am sure that countless conversations about the film will revolve around Jesus, life, and truth, and in that sense I feel that they have achieved their goal. Was the film perfect? No. Will it win any awards? Maybe in Portland. However, like the book, the movie will resonate with people who have grown tired of those who attempt to live religious lives on their own volition. Outside of Jesus, religion is nothing but a set of rules and rituals that lead to frustration, disenchantment, and alienation. I think the film (and book) show it even when they don't say it. While I don't necessarily agree with all of Miller's viewpoints, I look forward to the day (in heaven presumably) when we can sit down, have a beer (edgy, I know), and talk about life and truth. I would love to hear other people's takes in the comments section.
Blue Like what??? Tell us! The suspense is killing me. Stupid elipsis.

No comments:

Post a Comment