Thursday, April 12, 2012

Trailer Review: Blue Like Jazz


A friend of mine sent me a note asking if I had seen this trailer and how she thought of me because of the Reed connection.

I hadn't, but I went and watched it. So, my review of the movie based upon the trailer: FAIL. I mean, sure, it may be an awesome story and well made and all, but in terms of depicting the college I know, not so much.

So it is based on a book about an Evangelical Christian boy who goes to Reed. According to the Wikipedia page, the author, Donald Miller, audited classes at Reed around the same time I was there. However, the film looks chock full of false assumptions about Reed that many Portlanders have. I don't remember any "Here at REED college" sort of lectures by professors and while the student body is certainly liberal, overall, they are not on the whole so hostile to religion that someone suggesting someone else "get in the closet" with their religion would be a regular experience (I am not suggesting it never happened, just that, overall, people had more important things to worry about than other people's religious views)--sure, there were a few people who were hostile towards Christianity, but only a person with an axe to grind would look at those view and extrapolate that out to the entire community. For example, there was a girl in my Hum 110 conference freshman year who was, according to her roommates, an Evangelical Christian. One of her roommates said she would cry because she knew she would never meet the man she wanted to marry at Reed and why do you go to college if not to meet your spouse? I should mention that her roommate was not a nice person. However, yeah, someone espousing such a viewpoint wouldn't be shunned for being an Evangelical Christian, but for being a dupe of the Patriarchy and naive. I am sure she left thinking Reed was a hateful, evil place, but the reality was just that she had hateful, evil roommates ( an experience which, I can tell you from my own experience, she was not alone in having). So, yeah, I guess I can at least accept the fish out of water aspect of this story.

Except.

I guess the thing which bugs me the most is that Reed just isn't all that weird. Sure, Renn Fayre has crazy stuff like popes riding bicycles and naked people painting themselves blue, but that is ONE weekend out of the year. The rest of the time everyone is too busy studying to do that sort of thing. I feel like in their rush to make some modern day, Evangelical Christian Paper Chase*, they failed to include the real thing which makes Reed special, which is the intellectual rigor of the place (and, again, if someone wasn't overly familiar with the school they would just assume it was like every other "good" school in that regard and would focus on the weirdness...um, you would be weird too if you had to read 600 pages a day, but you wouldn't have time to express that weirdness)**. So while a few things, like the Cross Canyon Bridge, make an appearance, for the most part, the college depicted doesn't resemble the one I attended, either physically or intellectually or spiritually.

But those are my thoughts and I freely admit they are based ENTIRELY on 151 seconds of trailer. I could be entirely wrong. What do you think?

*I feel I should note that when I was in high school, I loved The Paper Chase (the movie and the tv show) and I think my sixteen year old self would be geeking out that her college was given such treatment. My sixteen year old self, however, was able to glamorize such things as staying up all night study and talking to people because she hadn't experienced such things for herself. Of course, even then I was a stickler for THE TRUTH (whatever that means) so maybe I would have been shaking my teenage fists at this trailer as well. I doubt it though (because, to be honest, the students in this film look a lot more real and familiar than the sort of college students that graced the films of the eighties).
**So, in this respect, it really was like The Paper Chase. Also, some of us did have our very own Professor Kingsfield, able to inspire terror and awe and intelligence, in the person of Gail Kelly. It never occurred to me before now, but I wonder if she intentionally modeled herself after John Houseman's performance or if that was just a bizarre coincidence.

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