Just over one month from now, the long-in-gestation film adaptation of Blue Like Jazz is finally due to be released in theaters across the United States. Based on the New York Times best selling memoir by Donald Miller, it tells the story of a young Baptist kid struggling to retain his faith at Reed College, the “most godless campus in America.” While other, more cautious directors might be tempted to cash in on the “family friendly” Christian market, Steve Taylor, the semi-famous Christian musician from the 80s and the director of this film, had no such interest in that sort of project.
“I made it clear to all our potential investors and/or heads of media companies, the vast majority of whom were fellow Christians, that this was not going to be a family movie. The reason was simple: How do you tell the story of a college kid who flees his Southern Baptist upbringing in suburban Houston to attend the ‘most godless campus in America’ without showing what that environment is like? And how can that environment be portrayed realistically in the context of a ‘family’ movie? Doesn’t have to be rated R, but it’s probably going to be PG-13, right?”
What will be interesting to see is whether this film can find its theatrical legs. By opting to eschew the “family friendly” template, Taylor has potentially alienated a large segment of the population that might typically flock to see the latest “Christian” film. At yet, at the same time, he is asking the broader movie-going audience to embrace a story about a young man’s desire to maintain his faith amidst a decidedly secular environment. It’s a risky gamble to be sure, and one that is likely to either cause this film to flop under the weight of Taylor’s decision or soar as audiences embrace a “Christian” film that has the courage to tell its story in a non-sanitized way.
In either case, Blue Like Jazz appears to be a classic coming-of-age tale, similar in some ways to Zach Braff’s 2004 cult phenomenon, Garden State. And if its status as an “Official Selection of the South by Southwest Film Festival” is any indication, we could be in for a genuine treat. If you’re on the edge on this one, do yourself a favor and at least check out the trailer below.