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The simple genius of Blue Like Jazz is to me this:

It presents the world as it is–not as we would have it be. In this way, it is like the Bible itself, which presents the human race as we are: as sinners. (Yes, even Christians sin. Shocking, I know).

So there are:

Lesbians, drug references, partying, and general debauchery portrayed on the the screen. Should this surprise us? I defy you to show me a college campus (the movie’s setting) where none of the above occurs (yes, even Christian ones).

This may ruffle some feathers, but so did Jesus. We need to be shaken, to feel uncomfortable. It’s good for our souls.

By that, you’ve probably gleaned that this is not a movie interested in preaching to the choir. What it is interested in is the story–the journey that young Don takes. To me, the road he travels is reminiscent of:

“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night, even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” (Psalm 139:7-12, ESV).

And that to me is the difference between Blue Like Jazz, and other “Christian” films; specifically, that it’s not afraid to show us Don’s (and our) darkness, but in the end it’s not about embracing that darkness, rather it’s about sharing what Jesus means to each of us individually as believers vs. telling others what Jesus should mean to them.

The simple genius there? Show vs. tell. And Donald Miller, Steve Taylor, and company do it very well.

Like the apostles of 2000 years ago, it is my hope that this movie turns the subculture of Christian cinema right side up.

As I asked in the post’s title: “Going the movies this weekend?”

See Blue Like Jazz. Get your tickets at Blue Like Jazz Tickets

You’ll be glad you did.


This past Thursday evening, my wife and had the privilege of seeing Blue Like Jazz on the closing night of the Phoenix Film Festival. I have written before of the impact Donald Miller’s work has had on me: How Blue Like Jazz ‘Saved’ Me.

So to say I was anxious to see the finished film is an understatement roughly the size of Shatner’s ego.

I was psyched!

So how did they do?

1) The picture didn’t look like it was filmed on a shoestring budget. The colors were lush, the cinematography outstanding.

2) The acting was crisp, and believable. These were real people. Like life, the funny parts were funny, and dramatic parts powerful.

3) The crisis in you v Don’s life felt real. You will believe the inciting incident, for sure. (How many of us have been there?)

4) The screenplay–adapted from Miller’s book by himself, Steve Taylor, and Ben Pearson–captured the intersection of clashing cultures perfectly.

5) Taylor has grown immensely as a director since The Second Chance–he knows how to elicit the best performances from his actors.

6) As I learned in recovery several years ago, I need to “accept this sinful world as it is–as Jesus did–not as I would have it to be.” This seems to be the principal thesis of the film, namely what does it look like when a person of faith crashes down in a world whose problems (sins) are greater than merely being, say, an inattentive dad? How does that person relate, fit in–does he hide? Where is God in this?

7) The ending, without being mawkish, is one of the most poignant, and powerful, I’ve ever seen.

Truly the movie, like the book before it, is about the intersection of life and grace.

Blue Like Jazz is, like, for real, man.

When the movie comes out this Friday (April 13th), be there. Don’t hide your kids, wife, or your husband–go! (Well, maybe get a babysitter for the kids–this film earns its PG-13 rating).

What are you waiting for?


>Donald Millerphoto © 2006 Jaci Gresham | more info (via: Wylio)

Confession: I wasn’t really aware of Donald Miller, or his work, until early last year (perhaps late ’09). But when I became aware, I plowed in with a vengeance. I wrote of the impact Blue Like Jazz had on me in How ‘Blue Like Jazz’ Saved Me. I whizzed through Through Painted Deserts, the audio version of Searching for God Knows What, and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Of the latter three, I would say that ‘Milion Miles’ had the profoundest impact on me. Its message was simple, yet profound in its implication: life is not something to be gotten through, but lived. And one cannot truly live without being intentional. (So great was the book’s impact, I grabbed my son on a Sunday morning and drove forty-one miles to a church in Gilbert, AZ to hear Mr. Miller deliver a guest message. After the service, we got to meet him, and I got my copy of ‘Million Miles’ autographed).

Insofar as my life was concerned, so much of it–including my career–was just something I’d fallen into. Mr. Miller’s book was a clarion call to me to live purposefully, with intention. What did I want from my life, and how would I get there? And how would I get there while maintaining the understanding that I’m not the central character in my story (God is)?

One of things I always wanted to do (one of the purposes for which I felt I was put on this planet) was write–so I earnestly began blogging here. In fact, because of Donald Miller, I was able to break free of a nearly eighteen-month slump in which I wrote nary a word.

So grateful was I for this, that when the Save Blue Like Jazz campaign reached 4,000 donors, I gave away my signed copy of ‘Million Miles’ to a poor college student in Kansas. I did it because I felt like I needed to give back, or “pay it forward,” somehow.

So it is with a profound sense of gratitude that I am happy to help Donald promote the paperback release of A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.

Please watch the following video:

What story are you telling? from Rhetorik Creative on Vimeo.

What has the work of Donald Miller meant to you?