P.S. to My Review of Blue Like Jazz the Movie – Advice for Those Who Love the Book

A couple of days ago, I put up a review of Blue Like Jazz, the movie. Since then, I’ve received quite a few comments or emails from people who love the book Blue Like Jazz and are concerned about whether or not they’ll like the movie or not.

They have every right to be concerned, in my opinion. Like most people, I have had the experience of loving a book and being eager to see the movie version, only to be deeply disappointed by the movie. In fact, it’s hard for me to remember when I saw a movie version of a book I loved and felt satisfied. So, odds are that Blue Like Jazz book lovers will be disappointed.

But not necessarily. For one thing, the movie version of Blue Like Jazz is very well done. It tells an engaging story. It is well-acted and directed. This suggests that book lovers could also love the movie.

But not necessarily. You see, the movie version of Blue Like Jazz is not really the movie version of Blue Like Jazz. It doesn’t even purport to be a fairly accurate cinematic version of Donald Miller’s actual life. Rather, the movie is better understood as a story inspired by the book. It reflects the ethos and character of the book, but not so much the actual experiences of the actual Donald Miller. Yes, some of the best scenes from the book do end up in the movie. I won’t spoil it by being specific here. But much of what is literally in the book does not make it into the movie, and much of what is in the movie is not literally in the book.

So, if you love the book and go to the movie expecting to see a film version of the book, you’ll be disappointed. But if you are open to seeing a film that faithfully captures the core message of the book, if you’re willing to see a story that is inspired by the book, then you’ll be pleased, even relieved. So, here’s my advice for lovers of the book Blue Like Jazz:

Think of the movie Blue Like Jazz as a story inspired by the book Blue Like Jazz,
rather than as a film version of the book.

Think of the movie Blue Like Jazz as a fictional representation of the core message of the book Blue Like Jazz, not as a literal representation of the actual events of the book.

Finally, if you want to understand how Donald Miller and his partners in writing the screenplay ended up with the movie they wrote, I would heartily recommend Miller’s book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life. This book will do more than show you the transition from Blue Like Jazz the book to Blue Like Jazz the movie. It will also help you to think about the story of your own life and how it fits within God’s grand story of redemption and restoration.

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  • Rodney

    I’m very much looking forward to seeing Steve Taylor’s work.  He is a brilliant artist, sensitive to the nudging of the Spirit and the powerful call of the kingdom.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, indeed. Steve is amazing. He’s also a deeply humble man who truly seeks God’s glory in all that he does.

  • Personally, I think what they did was really smart. Too often “true” narratives are manipulative and inauthentically revisionist. By fictionalizing his story, Miller and his co-writers have delivered a film that feels authentic because it is freed from the burden of representing “reality.” I think that the fictitious narrative form “opened up” the material while being true to the emotions and sentiments that Blue Like Jazz wrestles with.

  • Anonymous

    Hey, thanks for adding this.