Blue Like Jazz
On April 13, moviegoers found out that “Everybody belongs somewhere.” This tagline for Blue Like Jazz, a low-budget film directed by Steve Taylor, describes the exact feelings I had about this movie: it belongs on a list of great recent films. Evolved from a comparatively humble budget, it was pretty lucky to appear on the big screen. The story and screenplay, developed from the New York Times’ bestselling book by Donald Miller, tells Miller’s perspective and own experiences at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.
Despite the story’s basis on an interesting, best-selling novel, producing the film was a struggle. A film like this, with a message of self-discovery and resolution of major life questions, was sadly almost silenced due to budgetary issues. In 2010, Taylor had secured two investors to fund production. However, an investor bailed out at the last minute, and the film’s production was temporarily shelved. It was through the surprising attempt by two fans of the book to raise the money through the website Kickstarter that Taylor’s film was made possible.
The film and the story revolve around Miller, a sophomore who grew up in a small Baptist town in Texas. At Reed, his beliefs and morals are challenged, judged, and sneered upon. Considered one of the most liberal and religiously independent schools in America, Taylor did all he could to make the elements of Reed College authentic in the film. “It was amusing to us, but it was all based on reality. I spent a lot of time at Reed College, and it’s hard to believe when you watch the movie, but we actually really toned-down the Reed College experience,” he said in a recent Entertainment article.
I savored the hilariously outrageous things Taylor mentioned, especially some of the experiences of the college students and the outlandish traditions of the school. The part that makes the film so genuine and honest is that the plot and the experiences Miller goes through are based on real events. Unlike most movies, authenticity plays a key role; the viewer is not visually deceived into thinking one way or another. It sets an example of how movie-making and screenwriting ought to be in comparison to the mostly unrealistic stories of mainstream movies. In the end, movie goers belong watching Blue Like Jazz.