Greetings From Tim Buckley, Review

A non-traditional bio film about Tim and Jeff Buckley.

Greetings From Tim Buckley
Focus World
104 Minutes; Dir. By: Daniel Algrant with
Penn Badgley, Imogen Poots, and Ben Rosenfield


When director Daniel Algrant sat down to write his next movie, he just wanted to tell a story about a man coming to terms with his absentee father. Realizing the storied tale of musical legends Tim and Jeff Buckley perfectly embodied the tale he was looking to tell, Algrant jumped into action molding pieces of his script around the Tim Buckley tribute concert that propelled Jeff Buckley from obscurity to instant stardom. Surreal and mesmerizing at times, Greetings From Tim Buckley may turn off those who are looking for the trademarked Hollywood biopic. Never knowing his father beyond a few fleeting, childhood moments, Jeff Buckley is surprised, almost confounded when he’s invited to attend a tribute concert being created for his long lost father, in Brooklyn, NY. Accepting the invitation, Jeff arrives with no real expectations about the event. He suddenly finds himself the centerpiece of the performance. Unable to handle the emotional and unrealistic reactions people expect of him about a man he doesn’t even know, Jeff struggles to stick around or take anything seriously. With the help of a young lady aiding in the creation of the show, Jeff finds ways to battle the overpowering presence of the father who never opened the door for his own growth, as a man.


I’ve followed both these musicians for longer than one might believe. I’ve been a Tim Buckley fan since I was in my mother’s womb; “Morning Glory” and “Once I” were two of the first songs I can ever remember listening to. I was slightly hesitant to accept Jeff Buckley on the release of his album “Grace,” as that was the point in my life when I was a hipster before the word existed; “Yeah, Jeff Buckley is cool, but Tim Buckley’s way better, you’ve probably never heard of him.” Quickly overcoming my stubborn stupidity, I was on the Jeff bandwagon pretty easily. Among the many recordings I collected are the scratchy, bootleg rips of that Tim Buckley tribute concert. Too young to even be aware of it when it happened, between the audio files I had to listen to and the descriptions of that night from the David Browne biography, Dreambrother, I have had very specific and vivid images in my head about the night that turned a tribute show into the launching pad of this generation’s mystical musical figureheads.


The portions of the film that deal with the “Greetings From Tim Buckley” show (that was the title of the tribute night) are breathtakingly haunting. The audience members who were there that night witnessed something grand, a once in a lifetime event that most of the world will never experience. The magic of that night exists on the screen in the form of a recreation and that is a very difficult feeling to convey in more ways than one. The downside of this wonderful aspect of the film is, it has nothing to do with what the filmmaker wanted to portray. The bits and pieces that parallel the trials and tribulations between the lives of Tim and Jeff never fully mesh. Maybe it’s because the man Jeff became in the years after the events of the movie take place is so different from the Jeff of the movie. This is not a biopic; it’s just a tale using real lives as the backdrop. For those who see the movie because they are fans of one or both of these men, they may have trouble separating what they know to be true, from what they see on the screen. Even still, the exploration of what really goes on through Jeff’s head as the days progressed is thin and vague, leaving a lot to be desired in terms of the story telling.


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This is not a film about Jeff Buckley. Tim’s story is here too. In fact, all the music in the film is Tim’s music. There is a short scene where Jeff and Gary Lucas first work on what would become “Grace” (really Gary’s song originally) and the film ends with Jeff’s “Lilac Wine.” But the majority of every song presented is Tim’s work. Apart from those who knew him, Jeff is a mystery, but Tim’s life seems an even bigger enigma. While every aspect of their lives in the film is not 100% fact, it seems that the majority of the film is focused on Jeff, leaving an uneven balance to the narrative. Somewhere along the way, it feels as if the production could not decide how far it wanted to stray into a fully fictitious storyline and the choice to base the morality of the tale in the world of historical figures hinders the overall point of the piece. The story has a fill arc, but it is tied together very loosely and only complimented by what any common sense viewer would bring to the table from their own understanding of troubled relationships.


Before this film was even a thought in Algrant’s head, many different films about Jeff Buckley specifically, had been in the works. At one point I remember Brad Pitt was going to produce one, where he would play the tortured musician. Choosing who I thought should play Jeff Buckley in the movie was my favorite meal time game next to who would play the roles of every character in The Simpsons if they ever tried to make a live action film of it. I was fairly unfamiliar with the name Penn Badgley when I heard he was going to take on the task of playing a person with such a unique voice. I had never seen an episode of Gossip Girl and when I realized he was on that show, shivers crawled up and down my spine. Badgley ends up doing a decent enough job with the aloof and reckless nature of Buckley’s persona and when seen from behind, it’s almost as if Buckley’s ghost was living on the screen. Badgley does sing in the film a little and every note comes from his own throat. While it is an honest and worthy attempt at Jeff’s vocal talents, it still feels like coy mimicry at its best.


Greetings From Tim Buckley is an interesting attempt to capture the lives of two men whose life stories are those of modern legends and weaving something from them that reaches the lives of others. That being said, the full power and importance it could have held never gets past first gear and becomes lost in what most viewers are bound to be attached to: the mystic of Jeff Buckley.


Den Of Geek Score: 2.5 Out Of 5 Stars



2.5 out of 5