As a Reed College graduate, it is incredibly difficult to watch Blue Like Jazz
without focusing on the school’s portrayal. After all, as the backdrop for 19-year-old protagonist Donald Miller’s (Marshall Allman) crisis of faith, the campus and its students have a starring role.
Extrapolated from Miller’s 2003 memoir of the same name, Blue
is the tale of his journey from conservative Texas to Reed, where he’s told point blank to bury his background and attempts to reinvent himself as a radical atheist. The Reedies here are rarely out of costume, tall bikes prevail, and parties ensue. All this and more certainly happens during the 10 percent of students’ free time outside the library, but the film glosses over the culture of dialogue that’s more salient than bug-eating contests or acid sheets printed with the school crest.
One of my freshman dorm mates was, much like Miller, a Christian from Texas. Nobody would have dared persecute him (Reed being home to the terminally picked on). Instead there were late nights of spirited but intelligent and civil philosophical and political debate—nights that laid the foundations for long, meaningful friendships. If Miller—or director Steve Taylor’s interpretation of him—failed to penetrate Reed’s superficial weirdness and tap into its essential open mindedness, it’s his loss and his experience. But there are few reasons to see this mediocre and ultimately Jesus-messaged movie other than another round of Reed-scrutiny, and its honor could use a little defense. (MARJORIE SKINNER)