AS A REED COLLEGE graduate, it's incredibly difficult to watch Blue Like Jazz without focusing on the school's portrayal. After all, as the backdrop for 19-year-old protagonist Donald Miller's (Marshall Allman) crisis of faith, the Portland campus and its students have a starring role.
Extrapolated from Miller's 2003 memoir of the same name, Blue is the tale of his journey from conservative Texas to Reed, where he's told to bury his background and attempts to reinvent himself as a radical atheist. The Reedies here are rarely out of costume, tall bikes prevail, and parties ensue. All this and more certainly happens during that tiny percentage of free time Reed students spend outside the library, but the film glosses over the school's culture of dialogue, which is more salient than the kooky P.E. classes and drug use.
One of my freshman dorm mates was, much like Miller, a Christian from Texas. Nobody would have dared persecute him, Reed being home to the terminally picked on; instead, there were late nights of spirited but intelligent and civil philosophical and political debate. If Miller—or director Steve Taylor's interpretation of him—failed to penetrate Reed's superficial weirdness and tap into its essential open mindedness, it's his loss and his experience. But there are few reasons to see this mediocre and faith-messaged movie other than as another round of Reed scrutiny, and its honor could use a little defense.