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Check out our exclusive interview with Steve Taylor, the director of “Blue Like Jazz”
“Blue Like Jazz,” the film adaptation of Don Miller’s New York Times Best Seller of the same name, has major obligations it fails to fulfill.
What producer-director Steve Taylor sculpted from the source material feels far removed from the original book’s content.
This seems odd considering his previous film, “The Second Chance,” discussed a similar theme of a strong believer thrown into a ideologically contrasting society.
The fact that the script was co-written by Miller barely shines through this film, which totes a wildly upbeat tone and detracts from the gravity of the matter: the story of a young believer faced with an existential crisis.
Miller, played by Austin native Marshall Allman, can be described as a complacent Baptist.
Despite his father’s personal indifference towards religion, Miller, raised primarily by his mother, trusts her traditional views.
However, his appalled reaction to an alleged affair between his youth pastor and his mother causes him to rebel by attending Reed College, a blatantly liberal institution far from the confines of his Houston hometown.
After arriving at the college, Miller finds himself overwhelmed by a “sea of individuality” during his first week at Reed College.
He has an uncomfortable run-in with girls in the co-ed bathrooms discussing shocking topics, and the first friend he makes, Lauryn, warns him about being openly devoted to God in a college that sees religious views as irreverent.
The snickering religious arbitration conducted by the college’s elected student “pope” confirms the college’s running gag on faith, as the pope absolves students of their sins and burns philosophical books to relieve them of “traditional dogma.”
Miller’s character in the film, however, has a disconcerting appeal to such contrasting lifestyles.
Author Don Miller wrote the book to show how the conditions he experienced shattered the sheltered Christian view that he was given.
While initially renouncing his faith, he grows toward the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ based on his harrowing experiences at Reed.
Allman’s portrayal of the author’s personal story sadly translated into a carefree freshman taking an abrupt sabbatical on faith, which included drinking and disrupting a bookstore while wearing a spacesuit.
What is even more troubling is the film’s limited scope toward a veritable religious debate.
The source material worked as an olive branch towards non-Christians, as any substantial references to Christianity were shown in a fleeting glance.
Penny (Claire Holt), who was created for the film’s adaptation, tries to amend this dearth of theological debate, as her beliefs never fray.
Her confrontational scene forcing Miller to realize his flaky attempts at fitting in, however, never happens.
The pope’s firm yet unsubstantiated claim of the inexistence of God during a nightly book raid, only elicits slight disinterest from Miller because his sleep was broken.
The film also shies away from letting sparks fly from harshly opposed religious views, almost as if it were a purely secular endeavor.
“Blue Like Jazz” mainly prides itself as the continuation of the titular book’s profound treatise on modern Christian spirituality.
The film’s primary fault, is that it elevates Miller’s fall from grace, rather than presenting it in a revelatory manner.
What the film truly offers viewers is an adaptation that may as well detract non-believers for portraying a theatrical slip-and-slide to Christ.