Film Review: ‘Blue Like Jazz’ by Bari Biern

Steve Taylor directs this indie film, adapted from a 2003 memoir by American author, Don Miller.   In Blue Like Jazz, nineteen-year-old Miller (Marshall Allman) is a dedicated parishioner who volunteers at his small Texan Baptist church until he discovers that his mother (Jenny Littleton) is having a fling with the married youth pastor (Jason Marsden). Don abruptly abandons his plan to return to a nearby Christian college and, instead, hightails it to Portland, Oregon, where his deadbeat Coltrane-listening dad has managed to enroll him at Reed College. There, Don attempts to abandon his faith and fully embrace the counter-culture of the small liberal arts institution. He befriends lesbians, participates in protests against bottled water and chain bookstores and, of course, ingests plenty of drugs and alcohol.

In the course of his existential crisis, he learns that everybody’s got an agenda, and hypocrisy is just as rampant among tree huggers as it is in religion. His journey ultimately brings him full circle and he and Jesus come to a reconciliation, of sorts.

Steve Taylor directs Blue Like Jazz with such a heavy hand that he could have subtitled the film, The Importance of Being Oh So Earnest.

The acting ranges from meh to adequate to competent, although Will McKenney, as Don’s hometown buddy, Jordan, brings a spark and poignancy to his character that lifts his performance head and shoulders above the actors portraying the flannel-shirted, pretentious college crowd.

Cinematographer Ben Pearson does his best with what clearly appears to be a teeny tiny indie budget, but many of the scenes, specifically those filmed  in Portland, look like disorganized flash mobs.

Justin Welborn and Marshall Allman in 'Blue Like Jazz.'

For all its noble philosophical intentions, Jazz Like Blue plays like a classroom project in filmmaking.  Perhaps Miller’s original memoir offers a more thoughtful, intimate and satisfying look at a young man’s crisis of faith.

Running Time: One hour and 46 minutes.

Blue Like Jazz is currently running at Regal Gallery Place Stadium (DC), AMC Hoffman Center 22 (Alexandria), Regal Cinema Bowie Crossing Stadium 14 (Bowie) and UA Fairfax Towne Center 10 (Fairfax).


Watch the trailer of Blue Like Jazz.

Blue Like Jazz website.


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