I’m no avid moviegoer. In fact, with small kids at home and no regular babysitter it’s a rarity that we head to a theater to watch a movie. A date night in my house typically consists of renting a movie on iTunes. So, for me, going to the theater this afternoon to see Blue Like Jazz was a bit of an experience in itself.
For some reason I missed the Blue Like Jazz phenomenon as a book. Several years ago I heard Donald Miller speak at NYWC and had to look in the handbook to figure out why everyone was so excited to hear him speak or why they wrote down everything he said. I saw the reverence but it didn’t resonate with me in the same way because I’d not read the book. Over the years I’ve found it awesome to discover many people’s mystical bond over the book and it’s author which I know nothing of.
So I walked into the theater today not knowing what to expect. I’d seen the trailer, known of the Kickstarter campaign, and sat front row as my officemate and friend Dave Palmer flew around the country hosting screenings in anticipation of today’s release.
What I wasn’t expecting was a beautiful storyline which pulled a thin and clever thread of the films main character walking away from and later finding his faith through the tapestry of a coming of age flick. I was struck by it’s difficult honesty, impacted by its hopefulness, and even snickered a bit at its wit. Sitting next to a fellow youth worker there were even a few times where we shared a “Wow, that was painfully true” remark as the youth pastor in the story earned his way onto the stories list of antagonists.
Blue Like Jazz is a good story. It’s a non-traditional faith journey where the main character follies forward on a quest to find his true self. It’s wholesome without being cheesy, full of believable character development without falling into cliché, and is pleasing to the eye without getting lost in shooting perfect scenes all over Portland.
I found Blue Like Jazz a portrait of the journey most Christians in church leadership seem afraid of. We long for a clean, seamless affirmation of adult faith as the culmination of lifelong childlike faith. Yet we all know that isn’t how it works! Instead, what we see is an honest look at the experimentation, trying on of various selves, and delving into doubt that so many young adults wrestle through as they take ownership of their faith walk.
A note for youth workers: This isn’t “a Christian film” in the classical way. The story hasn’t been sanitized. It’s college life for what it is. (And for those of us who went to Christian college, it’s the college life we never knew existed.)
I wouldn’t have a hard time taking the guys in my high school small group. But walk into knowing there is jazz music. You’ve been warned.