I had a chance on Tuesday evening to attend the premier of Blue Like Jazz, which was produced by Steve Taylor and is an adaptation of Don Miller’s book of the same title. I’ve known Don for many years and was introduced to him by one of the other central characters in the book, Tony Kriz, also known as “Tony the Beat Poet”. I was also roommates with another guy in the book, Grant- before he and his brother Blake lived with Don. What this means is that I’ve spent a lot of time with some of the characters and a considerable amount of time with Don- so the characters are real voices to me- IE, I don’t have to imagine their voices and mannerisms when reading the book and I can tell you that he captured their personalities and idiosyncrasies as well as I think you can in print.
But I’m not writing about the book.
I bring this stuff up to acknowledge that people likely have strong connections with the characters and any deviation from the actual book is tricky. If you haven’t heard by now- either through buzz on the Internet or when reading Don’s most recent book, the movie is very different from the book. While the book is a series of deeply introspective and honest essays about real stories and events, the movie feels like a vivid picture into the faith struggle of a character who traverses the abrupt and often messy, unclear intersection of belief and culture.
It kind of reminds me of the tension between basic photos and processed, crafted images. The crazy, larger than life photos that we admire from many pro photographers started out as Raw images that were then processed and tweaked to create an image that evokes strong emotion. Sometimes one finished piece of art captures what 10 others photos couldn’t…and sometimes it isn’t technically even what really happened.
I really like Don. I also really like the Don of the movie. He and his story are like an edited, concentrated version of the real Don’s struggle and journey. The beautiful voice and narrative of the book are instead rendered in new characters, energy and visuals. In some ways the real Don, the Don of the book is too self aware to make a good protagonist. The movie Don is more unsure and more clearly on the verge of implosion which makes the story move well. It also seems that perhaps the spiritual journey of the movie Don, is an amalgamation of the Spiritual development of both Don and Penny in the book.
Although I don’t know if this was intentional, I see a lot of Tony the Beat Poet in The Pope. There is a physical resemblance, but more than that, the daring and push to "get real" in that character fulfill the place that Tony did in the book quite well.
If you liked the book, you will like the movie because much of the same spirit is captured- God wants to interact with you here and now and will show up in ways that you didn’t expect.
Great job Don, Steve, Ben and cast! I loved it!
It opens tonight and I'd recommend seeing it. You can get tickets here- www.bluelikejazztickets.com