'Blue Like Jazz': Trading faith for theatrics at Portland college
A two-star movie review of "Blue Like Jazz," a dramedy that concerns an evangelical Christian who abandons his faith and gets lost in colorful misadventures at Portland's Reed College.
Special to The Seattle Times
'Blue Like Jazz,' with Marshall Allman, Claire Holt. Directed by Steve Taylor, written by Taylor, Ben Pearson and Donald Miller, based on a story by Miller. 107 minutes. Rated PG-13 for thematic material, sexuality, drug and alcohol content and some language. Several theaters.
Set in Portland and full of wacky eccentrics and progressive types, "Blue Like Jazz" loosely belongs to the same universe as "Portlandia." But the central character's dilemma in this sometimes-overbearing dramedy is that he can't quite find his place in the city.
Based on a semi-autobiographical tale by Donald Miller, "Blue Like Jazz" (largely funded by a Kickstarter online-fundraiser campaign) concerns a young evangelical Christian who has a crisis of faith and attends Portland's private liberal-arts-school Reed College rather than a religious institution.
The famed rigor of Reed's unconventional approach to higher education isn't exactly reflected in the film, though we see freethinking encouraged. Ironically, that's where Miller (a likable Marshall Allman) comes up short: Angry at the church he abandoned, he now lacks bearings as to his convictions.
Miller offends some fellow students with his glibness, and turns off a serious young activist (Claire Holt) he likes with his thoughtless drifting. Director Steve Taylor strongly plays up guerrilla theatrics and doctrinaire nihilism at Reed, a circuslike (and rather smug) atmosphere in which Miller loses himself.
But while there are a few laughs in this "Animal House"-for-smart-kids setting, Taylor embraces excessiveness for its own sake (silly bursts of animation don't help). Miller's last-minute epiphany about what he really feels is a little rushed if well-played. This is a movie with heart but too many distractions.
Tom Keogh: email@example.com