Four Reasons Why You Shouldn’t See the Blue Like Jazz Movie

I interviewed Don Miller last week. I’ve spent a couple days with co-writer and director Steve Taylor. I watched Blue Like Jazz twice at screenings I helped arrange. I’ve written elsewhere about the film. But I’ve been stewing on a question…

When I was talking to Don about the film, he referred to “people who live between faith and doubt, between the Church and the world.” Then somebody I work with sent me a question about the film. Christianity Today published a mixed review. I think the main critique was that the film never quite got to the point of a “Christian movie.” It didn’t provide a bulleted outline of what you should believe, that there was too much on people’s experience and not enough on doctrines. There will be no invitation to accept Jesus into your heart in the theater. “What do you think of that?” my coworker asked.

My response?

This is a piece of art. And art does not do a good job of prescribing. When Christians (or anybody) try to make art prescriptive, it trips into sentimentality and cliché. And that is not good art.

What art does do, however, is open up spaces for conversation. Art provokes something in us. Art challenges us. Art invites thought and a response. This is true of the audience of this film. And in talking to Don, this was also true of the team that made this film, that there was a mix of people and perspectives on the project, with lots of conversation and relationships flowing out of the script and the production.

Blue Like Jazz doesn’t offer clear, easy answers. But I think it resonates with the experience of a lot of people have had with the Church in the past twenty years, both as insiders and outsiders. It shows us the tension, the angst, the hypocrisy, the back-and-forth of faith and lack of faith.

So, you shouldn’t see Blue Like Jazz if:

  • You want easy answers.
  • You can’t consider the possibility of shortcomings in yourself, whether Christian or not.
  • You have a hard time laughing.
  • You want Christianity to be locked away in its own subculture.

Why are you planning on seeing Blue Like Jazz? (Or not?)

  • Luis

    You are want easy answers.

    Spelling error

    Love the article. Thanks for the review.

    • acjeske

      Thanks, Luis. I fixed it–too much rushing to get this up before a full day of meetings!

  • Drew

    Worth noting also that the AV Club, a far more secular and infinitely more skilled media criticism source, gives Blue Like Jazz a B+. Your point is an excellent one. Put another way- if the guiding axiom for good art is ‘Show, don’t tell’, then why is CT faulting BLJ for not ‘telling’ enough?

    • acjeske

      Exactly. I get their point, but I don’t think every piece of art needs to convey every piece of truth…

  • greg

    would love to see it…it will have to be wildly successful to make its way to small town southern illinois tho!

    • acjeske

      Greg, how close is the nearest opening?

  • Sarah H.

    I hope to see it, though it’s not screening nearby (yet). I think it’s great and wonderful for a piece of art to help start discussions and don’t see any need for it to end with a Gospel message – sorry to hear CT was disappointed with that.

    I think what gets me hung up is that I sometimes feel like Don Miller doesn’t think it’s okay to have one’s feet planted in the Church — in other words, if I am not “between faith and doubt”, I am not deep enough, or not open enough. Does the film convey that sense?

    • acjeske

      Sarah, I didn’t get the sense that it’s not ok to be committed to church. Rather, it’s not ok to be hypocritically coasting in church. And I don’t think he’d say it’s wrong to be more on the “faith” end of the spectrum. But “please don’t swallow doubt out of embarrassment or something” might be what he’d say.

  • Katrina Diller

    Seek for yourself – and Miller has a good guide. Read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.

    • acjeske

      Thanks, Katrina. I’ve read it and I think I’m living a good story.

  • Greg

    Is there one in St Louis? If so, the closest is 2.5 hours

  • acjeske
  • Brian

    Absolutely loved the book!! I read the first few pages in a bookstore and he said exactly what I had been feeling for a long time.
    Have given away many a copy. Proud to be one of over a thousand associate producers and can’t wait to see it! Hate I missed the tour stop on Greenville, SC. You’re so right, art opens the door for conversation. A door that, sadly, many “Christians” and churches are afraid to open. Yeah! I said it!

  • grace at {Gabbing with Grace}

    great post. I still hope to see it in a theatre, but may not be possible as we head up to Cedar Campus for a week, DOH! If not, definetly excited to rent it. BLJ was one of those inspire-me-to-write type of books. Love Don!

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