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Blue Like Jazz: Movie Review

Hannah Goodwyn


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Donald Miller's New York Times bestselling book, Blue Like Jazz, is now a feature film. Directed, co-written and produced by Christian music artist Steve Taylor, this based on real events, coming-of-age story points to God, but isn’t quite like the "Christian" movies you've seen before.

Blue Like Jazz is an edgy cinematic realization of how incredibly flawed we are and how shame, anger and doubt can consume one's life. It's an unapologetic look at a Baptist boy's immersion into the most liberal college environment imaginable and how his faith and identity are tested. While Blue Like Jazz may come across as too outlandish, it digs deep, showing the sin of humanity without glorifying it.


Donald (Marshall Allman) was raised a conservative Baptist in big 'ol Texas. So when he first arrives at Reed College, he's overwhelmed with the realities of secular college life. Ashamed of his upbringing and what his classmates think about God, Donald keeps his background a secret and experiments during his freshman year. Circumstances at home and popular thought on campus tempt him to leave church in his background and just move on.


Well acted, written and directed, Blue Like Jazz is a faith-centered film with the potential to seed conversations among circles that family-friendly entertainment can't reach. Touching on themes of hypocrisy and religious shame, the film illuminates our weaknesses as believers. Blue Like Jazz inherently speaks to the importance of individual faith and forgiveness. Regardless of our upbringing, we can't and shouldn't rely on our religious history. Faith must be personal.

More a collection of essays than a narrative memoir, the book and Miller himself guided the screenwriters of Blue Like Jazz as they built the storyline around true events, taking creative license along the way. Allman, a Christian actor most known for his work on Prison Break and True Blood, is thoroughly convincing, pulling you into Donald's faith/doubt struggle. His co-stars build strong characters around him, including Claire Holt and Tania Raymonde (LOST), as his friends Penny and Lauryn, and Justin Welborn as The Pope, an anti-religion student on campus.

Rated PG-13, Blue Like Jazz shows a gamut of biblically immoral actions and lifestyles. Drugs and alcohol are used, sexual content and same-sex attraction are present, foul language is normal and anti-God statements are made. That in mind, the story is told in such a way as to contrast Christianity with the everyday realities in our world. Their behavior isn't OK'd; rather, it is starkly compared to the grace and forgiveness we can have in Christ.


This verison of Donald Miller's story is attention-grabbing and thought-provoking. And as offensive as some of the material might be in Blue Like Jazz, it does show our culture's need for love and acceptance -- the ultimate of which only Christ can offer.

Note: Blue Like Jazz is for mature teenagers and adults.

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About The Author


Hannah Goodwyn served as a Senior Producer for, managing and writing for the award-winning website. After her undergraduate studies at Christopher Newport University, Hannah went on to study Journalism at the graduate level. In 2005, she graduated summa cum laude with her Master's from Regent University and was honored with an Outstanding Student Award. From there, Hannah began work as a content producer for For ten years, she acted as the managing producer for the website's Family and Entertainment sections. A movie buff, Hannah felt right at home working as's