Friday, April 27, 2012

Blue Like Jazz (movie review)

I have found it very difficult to write a review of Blue Like Jazz.  It is, as has been said, not another Christian movie.  And so I have found it hard to evaluate based on previously constructed film categories.  But here we go…

I love that it lacks the cheesiness and preachiness of typical Christian movies.  I love that the story is messy and real, that it avoids the cliché, everything-is-wrapped-up-nice-and-clean progression and ending.    I love that it is well-directed and well-acted.  I even love the fact that it made me squirm in my seat a number of times (There is a fair amount of foul language used, as well as some pretty crude conversations.  While these did bother me, I wondered if maybe that was the point, and maybe really being “in the world” and not simply “not of it” looks more like this than my own life does… shame on me).

The story is compelling, funny, and profound.  It is not a perfect movie, but I think most of my complaints come from wishing there was more.  A couple of the transitions in the story, especially near the end, felt a little rushed.  I also wanted a couple characters to be developed a little more.  But these are overall good problems; wishing the movie would have been stretched out a little more is definitely better than wishing it would be over already.

I am almost certain that someday I will write more about this.  Blue Like Jazz is a movie that starts discussions… important discussions about faith, doubt, Christianity in a secular culture, forgiveness, and so much more.  Make no mistake about it: Blue Like Jazz is bizarre, slightly offensive, and completely fascinating.  I would expect nothing less from the Steve Taylor and Donald Miller duo. 

Do yourself a favor and go see it.  Your toes will most certainly be stepped on… and I believe you will walk better because of it.

Find out where it is playing near you here.


Joel said...

Is it really necessary to walk through the mud for fear of preachiness?
Does it meet the 4:8 test?
I'm not trying to be critical, just discerning. I don't doubt there is much good in it, but it seems like there may be more unedifying material than good...

Jason V said...

Hey Joel, thanks for sharing your thoughts. And good questions.

I don't think the fear is of preachiness but rather a concern about the worldview that produces, among other things, preachiness. My concern is when I see people so afraid of being "contaminated" by a spec of mud that they are unwilling to really be "in the world." Or when I see people so absorbed in their own point of view and the correctness of that view that they can't relate to those who need us to reach out to them in love.

When I was a teenager I heard the metaphor of a good apple being dropped into a trash can of garbage and filth. The point was that no one would be willing to dig through the trash to get out one small good thing, and so neither should we in our entertainment choices, etc. But what if it wasn't an apple... what if it was something much more important, like a key to unlock the door where a friend was being held hostage. Then you would be willing to endure some garbage to get to the good.

Philippians 4:8 is a beautiful passage; one of my favorites. But I think it is often misused. We jump to the "lovely" and "pure" part and say if anything is portrayed that is offensive to us and our beliefs, then we should abandon it altogether. While it is good to guard against being polluted by the world, let us not forget the rest of the verse, which talks about things that are true, and honest/noble, etc.

I have seen many Christian movies (or heard Christian songs, etc.) that are certainly lovely and pure, but are definitely not true or honest. Are these not also a violation of the 4:8 principle? Is not the worldview that produces preachiness also a violation as much as explicitly impure or unlovely movies?

So where is the balance? I look to the life of Jesus, who never sinned and yet was accused of being the friend of sinners, of being a glutton and drunkard. He was not afraid to walk through the mud. After all, He came to earth for us and did just that. But He was also able to save us from the mud. He was able somehow to be the embodiment of Philippians 4:8 in its entirety and wholeness. I believe we all aim towards that goal.

Anyway, you mostly asked questions, so I don't mean to imply that you take the standpoint of all that I'm writing against. You asked questions that I've wrestled with for a long time and so I've got a lot to say about them, lol.

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