“Wow, you look just like him...” Jeff Buckley is used to getting the comparison. The resemblance between himself and folk-rocker father Tim has been more of a constant in his life than Dad himself, and to be greeted with such a familiar observation at a 1991 tribute concert in Brooklyn was implicitly part and parcel with agreeing to attend. Of course, if Jeff (Penn Badgley) didn’t really want to be there, he wouldn’t have flown out from L.A. to participate; then again, if Tim (Ben Rosenfield) had really wanted to be there for his growing son, he might not have left California for the girls and glory of NYC back in 1966.
“Greetings from Tim Buckley” alternates between the two timelines, as young Jeff and Tim both came to grips with their evident talents before meeting equally untimely ends, all the while hardly knowing one another. Eschewing the traditional biopic formula, director/co-writer Daniel Algrant (“People I Know”) doesn’t try to capture the whole of either man’s life, simply a week each wherein the inherent similarities and inexorable divide between the two were most potently demonstrated.
This running dichotomy does little to alleviate the fact that “Greetings” is clearly Badgley’s film, and while Rosenfield is a fair ringer for the real Tim Buckley, his scenes are captured in that familiar ‘60s rock haze of so many other movies, volleying between private acts of infidelity and public displays of sensitivity. When left uninterrupted, the ‘90s narrative does better to juxtapose the adoration of Tim by strangers against the absence still felt by Jeff, and even when our protagonist falls for an invented love interest in the form of Imogen Poots’ darling intern, they’re charming enough together to make their scenes a more welcome detour from the concert prep than the simplistic contrasts drawn between Tim’s past and Jeff’s present.
The most compelling reason for remaining with the ‘90s portion of the story is Badgley himself. A “Gossip Girl” regular, the young actor finally gets to show some dramatic and vocal chops here, convincingly conflicted as the begrudging embodiment of a legacy left behind by a father he hardly knew and as a potential talent in his own right. (A showboating bit of business in the middle of a record store is a welcome, wry pre-concert show-stopper of sorts.) The concert may have seen the reluctant birth of a second-generation rock star, but this movie, if nothing else, is a similarly suitable showcase for its own leading man.
SCORE: 7.4 / 10
"Greetings From Tim Buckley" is now playing in limited release, and is available on VOD and iTunes.