As promised, Bob and I went together to opening weekend of the movie, Blue Like Jazz. I came away with mixed feelings. There was a lot I liked, most of it was what was missing from the film.
- There was no cheese factor. Everything did not have to work out in the end in order to exonerate God.
- They resisted the urge to preach. This ends up also being a weakness although I realize I may be creating an impossibility.
- Sin was definitely PG13 which I appreciated. It made it much more realistic especially as the normal experience of a college student.
- They meticulously avoided any moral judgment. No surprise here. The book did the same thing. Miller is still recovering from a fundamentalist scarring. I thought they did a great job of presenting the homosexual lifestyle as a longing without fulfillment without being overtly judgmental.
- It seemed a very realistic portrayal of what happens to many Christians when they go away to college.
- I loved that the main character, although trying desperately to distance himself from God, felt as though God continued to doggedly pursue him. Probably the best part of the movie.
Now the things I didn’t like.
- The church was trashed pretty strongly. No surprise here either. Miller feels like it is the church that has turned so many people off to Jesus. I’m not saying he is wrong but I think the opening scenes of the church were particularly overdone and pretty terrible.
- The only positive portrayal of a Christian in the movie was Penny. She was positive but showed very little doctrinal belief system other than she really “liked” Jesus and was very involved in social justice around the world. There is nothing inherently wrong with that but it does lean heavily toward to Emergent Church.
- The pastor of the church that Penny attended seemed nice and kind but fairly irrelevant and weak.
- The final movement of Don back to faith happened as a leap with very little building up to it. I’m not sure if it was believable or understandable for anyone who had not read the book.
- Like the book, there was no real Gospel, or transformation from the Gospel. There was no mention of the cross so Jesus is portrayed as a moral teacher who wants people to love others, do good to others, but he is not presented as the Savior. This is where I may be asking for the impossible. It would be extremely difficult to portray this on film without seeming preachy or cheesy or both. And yet this was my hope for this movie.
While it did not live up to my high hopes I think it is a movie that can and will have a positive impact. Some will be able to see themselves within the film and other younger viewers may be able to catch a glimpse of the pressures that are coming as they head to college.