Defining a film like this is challenging. Depending on your beliefs, Blue Like Jazz will leave a very different impression on each viewer. It will also affect what you take away from the film. Directed by Steve Taylor, and based on a novel by Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz is the story of Don (Marshall Allman). Raised by a religious mother, Don decides to attend Reed College in Oregon. Warned that it’s the most godless campus in America, Don forces himself to hide his religious background. As he makes new friends and experiences college life, Don starts to realize that there are other ways to be spiritual besides the strict views he grew up with.
The mere mention of religion can be enough to send people racing from the theatre. That’s unfortunate because Blue Like Jazz may be one of the few films that can please everybody, regardless of your beliefs. This is not a film that trumpets the views of the church as the only right way. It’s not even a film that wants to tell you how great religion can be. In fact, many things happen in the movie that would lead you to believe the opposite, but that’s why it works so well. It’s not about Don finding his way back to the church, it’s about Don finding a way to his own spirituality and accepting his belief in God. Of course, what you take from the film will be heavily affected by what you bring into it.
The performances in the film are highlighted by Marshall Allman as Don and Justin Welborn as The Pope — but not The Pope you may be thinking about. This Pope spends his time drinking, doing drugs, and burning books. Justin Welborn is outstanding here. If Don represents youth finding their spirituality, The Pope represents those who have lost it and have no interest in getting it back. The relationship between Don and The Pope is one that the world should take to heart. Despite completely different beliefs, the two characters have a mutual respect for each other. They don’t try to convince the other that they’re wrong, they simply accept the other person for who they are.
There’s also a large emphasis on jazz in the film, as expected by the title, which makes music an integral part of the plot. Not only is there a fantastic soundtrack to the film, but there are many moments that can visualize the feeling of jazz. Certain scenes are a stunning combination of beautiful scenery and incredible music. For those that aren’t fans of jazz, don’t worry. There are various forms of music represented, it’s just that jazz plays a significant role in the film, becoming a part of the background and a part of the story.
People may call this a Christian movie, but the film really goes beyond that. Yes, the lead character is a religious person, but it’s not about what they believe, it’s about how they believe it. Maybe the message was different for this reviewer because of personal opinion, but that’s what makes a great film, the fact that it can appeal to different people and mean something very personal to each of them.