Blue Like Jazz Movie Review
I saw the movie Blue Like Jazz with my wife. Only one other couple was in the theater. They left during the bookstore scene about 30 minutes in. We stayed. I really enjoyed reading the book by Donald Miller, on which it is based. So I really wanted to like the movie.
But I agree with other honest critiques. I couldn’t care much for anyone but Penny, the female lead. Everyone else seemed like a sophomoric cartoon of real people.
Many church going Christians without a sense of humor will be offended by language, abuse of alcohol, sexual dialogue, and the aggressively negative portrayal of most Christians. Can I admit that eventually these got to me, too? No need to sanitize everything, but a bit too much.
More importantly, I feel like it violated everything that has made Donald Miller so awesome. It’s not worthy of the book nor Miller’s widely enjoyed speech on script writing called “Story”. They tried to use this in the film, but it was altered in key ways that didn’t work for me. The story lacks focus. Characters lack authenticity. And there’s no way things get resolved so quickly in real life as they do in the final scene. It needed 10 more minutes to play out some implications. And at the 1hr 45min movie length, time was available to do more. The book version of that scene was so much better. I don’t get why they changed it.
Over all, soul-crushingly disappointing. Nobody wanted to like it more than me. Ugh!
Can I blame Steve Taylor, the director? Not sure it’s that simple. It’s like it tried to be “Thin Ice” (1988 Christian Movie) in reverse. In the end I found it to be a formulaic “not-a-Christian-movie” Christian movie. The same critiques always offered applied here. All about a decision that changes everything but doesn’t get explored or realistically played out.
There are many schools of thought about how Christians should make movies. But if a movie has a spiritual decision as its climax, at least be more thorough and realistic. And don’t try to pretend that’s not what it’s about. I would love a little more gospel there, more clarity about Jesus. But even without it, the ending needed more time to seem real. That’s what drew me to Miller’s writings again and again. Good storytelling. This movie/script didn’t achieve the same level of on-screen meaning. At least not for me.
I hope Christians keep making movies. But this proves how hard it is to go from a written work to a screenplay.
Oddly, I hope others like it enough that nobody loses money on this project. I don’t think Christians should boycott it. That would accomplish nothing edifying. Consider seeing it just to support Donald Miller who sold his house to make it. But it has to stand on its own merits, especially if they’re going to insist its a different kind of movie.