Changing his setting from conservative Christian Texas Bible Belt to the “sea of individuality” that is Reed College, the impressionable Don Miller (played by the affable Marshall Allman) learns to improvise — and improve — his life in the disarming comedy-drama Blue Like Jazz. Don’s efforts to “experience the human dilemma” involve trying to fit in and hide his Southern Baptist identity. He soon befriends a lesbian named Lauryn (Tania Raymonde), The Pope (Justin Welborn), a mitre-wearing prankster, and develops a crush on comely activist Penny (Claire Holt).
While this engaging film — based on Miller’s bestseller, and directed and co-written by Steve Taylor — features a sprinkling of twee animation along with some amusing sight gags (Malaysian cocktail tennis, anyone?), it has more on its mind than forced whimsy. The flick sensibly questions larger issues of faith as Don tries to reconcile his beliefs about God and find truth and meaning in his life. His quest involves conflict, climax and resolution — although he understands that “jazz never resolves.” Blue Like Jazz may have a heavy dose of faith-based sermonizing, but to the film’s credit, it never gets heavy-handed.