Blue Like Jazz

Kenny (Jason Marsden) grew up in a Southern Baptist church in Texas. His pothead father (Eric Lange) abandoned him. Yet, Kenny still makes it a point to have breakfast with a “hobo” on a regular basis.

Kenny’s father left the church. He now lives in a trailer, equating life with jazz. He is a free spirit. Wanting the best for his son, he enrolls Kenny at Reed College, hoping he’ll forgo the church university he plans to attend. Kenny is happy with his life, and doesn’t want to follow his dad’s advice.

After finding out his mother isn’t the woman he thought she was, Kenny changes his mind.

Reed College is about as far from the life Kenny knew growing up. In fact, it’s about as far from any college experience I’ve ever heard of. I mean, there’s a bear who steals a tall bike and throws it in the river and a bike riding, book burning “pope” (Marshall Allman).

Kenny meets Lauryn (Tania Raymonde) in the coed bathroom. They quickly become friends. There is no chance for romantic tension between the two, seeing as Lauryn is a lesbian. During the first few days, at a booth protesting bottled water, Kenny meets Penny (Claire Holt), with whom he quickly becomes smitten.

While at college, Kenny meets several people who challenge his belief in God. In fact, at one point, Lauryn tells him he should “stay in the closet” about his religious ties. Advice he readily follows, even if it makes his relationship with Penny more than a little strained.

Kenny struggles with his beliefs and discovering who he really is and where he belongs. He goes back and forth with whether there is a God and what his role is. And why would he allow the tragedies of the world to happen.

This is an interesting film, to say the least. I don’t know exactly how to quantify it. It’s billed as a dramedy. That’s a drama/comedy for the uninitiated. While it certainly has some comedy, it’s heavy on the drama. And to say it’s “out there” is to put it mildly. Think claymation rabbits drinking Red Bull while driving and chasing a sexy carrot on a scooter.

The first half of the movie moves along at a decent pace, with a decent story. Then it hits a wall. Things get a little heavy and a little preachy. The emphasis on why religion is bad is at the forefront for most of the movie. And that’s fine. It just gets a little heavy-handed. (There’s also a lot less jazz in the soundtrack than I would’ve guessed for a film of this title.)

It’s a low-budget film. And it shows. (It’s so low-budget, that the funding to finish the film came from a Kickstarter campaign from fans who “refused to let the movie die.”) The script, acting, camera work comes across as a student film attempting to show how organized religion is brainwashing people, driving them to not be any better than the people they preach against. Which is true, to some extent.

The film is just under two hours. And it feels every minute of it. I found myself checking my watch towards the end. You keep waiting for it to resolve (which, based on what Kenny’s father says, you probably shouldn’t. Life, like jazz, doesn’t resolve.) I will tell you that it does resolve (though, I won’t tell you how.) I will also tell you that when it resolves, it feels a little rushed and forced.

All that said, it’s not a bad movie. It’s just different. There are many valid points to consider. And it’s important for everyone to make their own choices in life and decide who they are and what they believe. Don’t expect high-end, Hollywood finish and polish. That’s not what this movie is about.

If you have a couple of hours to kill, and are curious, wait for it to come out in the RedBox. There are worse choices you could make.

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