Blue Like Jazz

Blue Like Jazz is an odd beast: a pro-Christian movie condemned by multiple evangelical groups, an earnest and often affecting Igby Goes Down for the puppeteering-for-Christ set. The Igby in question is Don Miller (Marshall Allman), a Texas Baptist in the land of '80s hair whose ostensibly devout mother sleeps with his youth pastor, sending him angrily off to a stereotypically exaggerated Reed College for auto-reprogramming as a pagan rider of tall bikes who uncombs his neat locks and sneers at God to be accepted (while inwardly, of course, remaining terribly conflicted). He falls in love, while losing his way, with a honey-haired and milk-faced lefty do-gooder (Claire Holt), and also befriends a superhot lesbian (Tania Raymonde) and ironical "pope" (Justin Welborn). That Don comes back to Jesus in a terribly ham-fisted way after hitting a predictable drug-fueled bottom should surprise no one. What is surprising is that largely due to Allman's nuanced performance as Miller, the often laughably broad-stroked film actually takes on a tender, human emotional weight—laden with ambivalence, with doubt not only possible but sensible—before the movie's insultingly hackneyed final acts of contrition. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

Critic's Score: 67

Opens Friday at Lloyd Center, Clackamas, Bridgeport, Fox Tower.

Rock & Religion: The Medium of Worship

What's the difference between Jerry Lee Lewis and the Pentecostal churchgoers of West Virginia? When Jerry Lee asked you to handle his snake, he didn't mean it so literally. Otherwise, they've both got a whole lotta shakin' goin' on—and the adventurous curators at Cinema Project have juxtaposed them in a double feature on the varieties of religious ecstasy. Dan Graham's 1984 video Rock My Religion makes the comparison more explicitly: It's like a lo-fi Chris Marker film, with a lot of pelvic thrusting spliced with woodcuts of Shakers. But the case is actually stronger in Peter Adair's black-and-white, gorgeously preserved 16 mm documentary, Holy Ghost People, which in 1967 coolly considers the rattlesnake-handling charismatics of Scrabble Hill, W.Va. Their tremors, convulsions and dancing amid the wooden pews feel like nothing so much as a good punk show—a reminder that there's a strain of American Christianity that isn't judgmental, but ardently seeks the sublime. Then these nice, Norman Rockwell-looking folks pull some rattlers out of a fiddle box and start tossing them across the room, and it's a reminder that, oh right, that strain of American Christianity is also batshit. AARON MESH.

Critic's Score: 76

Hollywood Theatre. 7 pm Tuesday-Wednesday, April 17-18.