Don, a pious nineteen-year-old sophomore at a Texas junior college, impulsively decides to escape his evangelical upbringing for life in the Pacific Northwest at one ofthe most progressive campuses in America, Reed College in Portland. Upon arrival, Reed's surroundings and eccentric student body proves to be far different than he could possibly imagine from the environment from which he came, forcing him to embark on a journey of self-discovery to understand who he is and what he truly believes.
Don, a nineteen-year-old sophomore at a Texas junior college, tries to escape his Bible Belt upbringing for life in the Pacific Northwest at the most godless campus in America.
Blue Like Jazz digs into a realm little touched by American movies: the wrestling match between faith and doubt. Don (Marshall Allman, True Blood), after discovering that his mother is having an affair with his youth pastor, flees conservative Texas for the most radical place he can find: Reed College in Portland, Oregon. As he navigates romantic disappointment, civil disobedience, a lesbian best friend, and lots of alcohol, Don tries to not only hide his Christian background but repress his religious yearning--which only leads him to flounder until, after struggling through confusion, lashing out, and even humiliation, he reaches some equilibrium. Adapted from the memoir by Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz is an odd movie, episodic and muddled in some ways, squeezed into moviemaking formulas in others, and there are some sequences (such as Don imagining himself as a rabbit chasing a sexy carrot from Texas to Portland) that aren't going to make much sense to anyone who hasn't read the book. The greatest strength of Allman's performance is that it doesn't soft-pedal Don's disillusionment; his desire to escape his upbringing feels genuine, and the movie's conclusion doesn't seem predetermined. Blue Like Jazz doesn't reach the emotional richness of Higher Ground, another movie about the search for faith, but Don's struggle feels honest. That kind of integrity is rare and worth experiencing. --Bret Fetzer
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