Film Review: ‘Blue Like Jazz’ by Bari Biern

Steve Taylor directs this indie film, adapted from a 2003 memoir by American author, Don Miller.   In Blue Like Jazz, nineteen-year-old Miller (Marshall Allman) is a dedicated parishioner who volunteers at his small Texan Baptist church until he discovers that his mother (Jenny Littleton) is having a fling with the married youth pastor (Jason Marsden). Don abruptly abandons his plan to return to a nearby Christian college and, instead, hightails it to Portland, Oregon, where his deadbeat Coltrane-listening dad has managed to enroll him at Reed College. There, Don attempts to abandon his faith and fully embrace the counter-culture of the small liberal arts institution. He befriends lesbians, participates in protests against bottled water and chain bookstores and, of course, ingests plenty of drugs and alcohol.

In the course of his existential crisis, he learns that everybody’s got an agenda, and hypocrisy is just as rampant among tree huggers as it is in religion. His journey ultimately brings him full circle and he and Jesus come to a reconciliation, of sorts.

Steve Taylor directs Blue Like Jazz with such a heavy hand that he could have subtitled the film, The Importance of Being Oh So Earnest.

The acting ranges from meh to adequate to competent, although Will McKenney, as Don’s hometown buddy, Jordan, brings a spark and poignancy to his character that lifts his performance head and shoulders above the actors portraying the flannel-shirted, pretentious college crowd.

Cinematographer Ben Pearson does his best with what clearly appears to be a teeny tiny indie budget, but many of the scenes, specifically those filmed  in Portland, look like disorganized flash mobs.

Justin Welborn and Marshall Allman in 'Blue Like Jazz.'

For all its noble philosophical intentions, Jazz Like Blue plays like a classroom project in filmmaking.  Perhaps Miller’s original memoir offers a more thoughtful, intimate and satisfying look at a young man’s crisis of faith.

Running Time: One hour and 46 minutes.

Blue Like Jazz is currently running at Regal Gallery Place Stadium (DC), AMC Hoffman Center 22 (Alexandria), Regal Cinema Bowie Crossing Stadium 14 (Bowie) and UA Fairfax Towne Center 10 (Fairfax).


Watch the trailer of Blue Like Jazz.

Blue Like Jazz website.


Previous article‘Come Fly Away’ at The Kennedy Center by David Friscic
Next articleHelen Hayes Awards Nominees Maximilien Baud, Noah Chiet, and Matthew DeLorenzo
Bari Biern
Bari Biern is an actress/playwright/lyricist whose first musical, 'A Dance Against Darkness: Living with AIDS' (with composer Roy Barber) was nominated for Helen Hayes Awards as Outstanding New Play and Outstanding Resident Musical. She wrote the lyrics for 'Riddle Me a Prince,' a children’s musical which premiered at Imagination Stage, with book by Ernie Joselovitz and Harry Bagdasian, and music by Emmy Award winner, Lenny Williams. She contributes lyrics to the political satire troupe, the Capitol Steps, and has been performing with them since 1993. Bari was the lyricist for the critically-acclaimed In Series production of 'The Marriage of Figaro: Las Vegas Version.' That opera (with dialogue by Elizabeth Pringle) was presented by Philadelphia’s Poor Richard’s Opera Company as part of the 2010 Philly Fringe Festival. Poor Richard’s also presented 'Gianni Schicchi,' featuring Bari’s English libretto. In 2011, Bari was the librettist for WAM2, a co-production of the In Series and the Washington Ballet. She also wrote the script for the In Series’ 'Arlen Blues & Berlin Ballads,' which premiered earlier this year. Bari has reviewed theatre and film in the DC area for WAMU-FM’s Metro Connection.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here