Blue Like Jazz is a really good movie that you should go see on April 13th.
Several years ago, Isha gave me a collection of three Donald Miller books that included Blue Like Jazz. I had heard plenty of good reviews from friends, but had not read it yet. It is a collection of essays and personal reflections on Christian spirituality in the author's life. I found Donald's writing very personable, honest, and thought-provoking. It was not some sugary, rainbows-and-unicorns spirituality he wrote about; neither was it finger-wagging from a pulpit. It was like a conversation with a good friend. I really enjoyed it and highly recommend it.
In 2009, I heard that Steve Taylor was working on making a movie from the book. This excited me because Steve Taylor is one of the few people I might call a hero in my life. He is best known for his Christian music career in the '80s and '90s. I was always struck by the quality of his work. In a sub-genre that often produced mediocre, cheesy fluff, he was striving to make excellent art and addressing important topics within Christianity. (“We Don't Need No Colour Code” criticized Bob Jones University's policy against interracial dating that existed until 2000.) In recent years, he directed The Second Chance. It was not a big hit or anything, but it was good for a first-time director.
Then, in September 2010, Donald blogged that they were pulling the plug on the movie shortly before filming was to start. It had already been a difficult film to raise money for and then one of the investors backed out. It seemed impossible to get the needed investment in such a short time, so they sadly shelved it.
A couple fans of the book decided to take things into their own hands. They noticed people leaving comments about pitching in money to crowdsource the funding. They convinced Donald and Steve to let them launch the Save Blue Like Jazz Kickstarter campaign. The goal was to raise $125,000 — the minimum needed to complete the film. The campaign had thirty days to meet the goal, but it was raised in about ten days. At the end of the campaign, $345,992 had been raised and Blue Like Jazz was going to be made!
This past Thursday I had the opportunity to see a screening and meet Donald, Steve, and Marshall Allman (the lead actor). The film was as great as I expected it to be. The book doesn't naturally lend itself to a screenplay, so the film is a fictionalized story of Donald's life and experiences at Reed College. It is a good story about a kid wrestling with his faith.
I realize many people (myself included) might see “faith-based” or “Christian” and want to avoid the movie altogether. I think this is because, for the most part, these type of movies have been mediocre and present an inauthentic, polished-and-rated-G version of life. They are often made with the goal of proselytizing. Blue Like Jazz is not these things, in my opinion. The writing, acting, and production are of good quality. I found the story enjoyable, relatable, and most importantly, authentic.
I am really excited for this film, if you could not tell. If you have not read the book yet, I encourage you to do so. The movie comes out April 13th, so you can finish it before opening night. :] If you enjoy the book and/or want to support the film, please go see it that night. The opening weekend box office numbers are one of the most important things determining whether more theaters will pick it up and show it.
Blue Like Jazz trailer: