Greetings from Tim Buckley

20 Jan

jeff

Jeff Buckley fans will rejoice or despair while watching this movie, depending on whether they found Gossip Girl actor Penn Badgley’s portrayal of the famous musician as faithful or flawed.

As an avid Jeff Buckley devotee I had serious misgivings: how could a mere actor embody the legendary 1990s singer-songwriter who touched so many people’s hearts before his untimely death at the age of 30? However, I will grudgingly admit that tousle-haired Badgley makes a passable Jeff, if you squint a little, with his curly dark locks and elegant features, the actor has an uncanny resemblance to the singer with the soaring voice of an angel.

Set in 1991, the film focuses on Jeff’s relationship with his father, folk singer Tim Buckley, who died of an overdose at 28 and rarely saw Jeff during his life. A troubled young Jeff is invited to participate in a tribute concert in New York for his father, and in doing so, launches his own musical career and embarks on a romantic relationship with an enigmatic young woman, Allie (Imogen Poots). As Jeff struggles with his feelings while preparing for the concert, we flash back to scenes featuring his father heading off to play a gig in 1966, giving us an insight into the character of Tim Buckley (Ben Rosenfield).

For fans it may be something of a bittersweet experience to have Jeff resurrected, especially as Badgley has imbued him with a cocky and self-assured swagger that becomes a little irritating at times. However he redeems himself with his singing and guitar-playing, even managing an admirable rendition of Buckley’s famous falsetto. One scene in a record shop, when Jeff entertains Allie with some impromptu warbling, is a standout.

In making the film, director Daniel Algrant consulted those who worked at the pivotal 1991 concert, including Gary Lucas who later collaborated with Jeff. The final concert scenes are emotional but not saccharine, and it is with a touching simplicity that Jeff is able to embrace his father’s legacy.

For viewers today, the joy of seeing the singer unleash his own astounding musical style is tempered by the grim knowledge that in six years’ time he would drown in a Memphis river. A beautiful, restrained portrait of two musical legends who both died tragically young.

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