What is really neat about movie production nowadays is that a lot films are released OnDemand the same day as in theaters. Not only is this a great opportunity to see films you couldn’t see at your local Clearview Cinemas or AMC Theaters, but you can save a whole lot of change as movies are incredibly expensive.
So it was to my complete delight when I saw Greetings from Tim Buckley available OnDemand. The somewhat anticipate film stars Penn Badgley as Jeff Buckley travelling to New York for tribute concert remembers his late father (Tim Buckley).
Here are #5Takeaways from the film Greetings from Tim Buckley.
Penn Badgley is a damn good actor.
I have never seen Gossip Girl before, but I know that is what Penn Badgley is mostly know for. I was taken aback when I first heard that he had been cast in the role of Jeff Buckley. Buckley had such an interesting/crazy voice, that I didn’t think Badgley would be able to cut it. But apparently to audition for the film Badgley sent a tape of him singing to director Daniel Algrant. For the film Badgley took both voice and guitar lessons, which really helped. His transformation in a musician is really remarkable.
There is one scene in particular when Badgley and his love interest (Allie) are in a record store and Badgley becomes a human jukebox, mimicking various artists when Allie holds us the record. He goes from his father (Tim Buckley) to David Lee Roth to a whole other host of artists. It’s a really cool scene. Badgley has a much understated performance. It is effortless, but has a lot of feeling in a strange way. He has great eyes which can do a lot of talking for him. And when he’s performing at the end of the film, the transformation to Jeff Buckley is seamless.
The film has an interesting, parallel structure.
The film is about Tim Buckley just as much it is about Jeff Buckley. The film alternates to 1966 to 1991 (when the tribute concert was held). In 1966, we start by seeing Tim Buckley leaving his super-pregnant wife to go on a nationwide tour where he winds up in New York City. In 1991, Jeff Buckley goes on the same journey (except for touring). He starts in Anaheim, when a call from a woman asks him to venture to Brooklyn for tribute concert on behalf of his father. During his trip across country, Tim Buckley stops with his driver/love interest at a desert and exclaims “unscheduled stops cannot be scheduled.” The quote almost serves as a mantra for Jeff’s own journey to understand his father and his potential as a musician.
In 1966, we see Tim Buckley during one of his shows at a venue called Café Wha? The scene is a stereotypical 60s hipster club, with Tim Buckley alone on a lighted stage holding an acoustic guitar singing into a microphone. Cropped with a curly afro, people with dark-rimmed glasses pepper the crowd, with others wearing interesting clothing, fitting for the time. During the record scene store in 1991, Jeff Buckley proclaims, “the 60s were bullshit,” and when he runs out the store chasing Allie down a New York City street, and what venue does run by, Café Wha? of course.
There are some great performing performances.
There aren’t really a ton of actors in the film, but don’t they say, “Quality of quantity?” The girl who plays Allie, (Jeff’s love interest) is really special. She is able to convey a sweetness, but isn’t overbearing. There organic romance really believable. Besides Allie, the rest of the actors play musicians who a participating in the tribute concert.
Most of the musicians are actually played by real musicians. Frank Bello, part of the hard rock group Anthrax plays Richard Hell. Hell’s was one of the innovators and pioneers of punk rock music and was actually credited with giving The Sex Pistols the idea for the distinctive style. And the AWESOME Kate Nash plays Carol. It was crazy seeing her in this movie at first. But all the supporting actors play a similar role as Allie, they aren’t overbearing. They allow Jeff Buckley to make his own decisions, make his own path and decide if he wants to forgive his father or not.
The story is ultimately about the father-son relationship
From the start of the film it is a clear that Tim Buckley wasn’t a father who was “there” for his son. He is on tour when his wife gives birth and through the tour you see him sleep with two other women. With one woman he simply states, “My wife hates my music.” You don’t really understand then why Jeff Buckley decides to head to New York to “honor” his father. When he gets there everyone is shocked by his appearance and keeps telling him, “You look exactly like him.” Little bits of Tim Buckley’s do start to “emerge.” His manager tells Jeff, that after shows at 1 A.M. Tim would make him drive to his mother’s house where Tim would sneak through the window and hang out with his son.
Halfway in the film on the tribute concert’s producer’s wheel out a TV playing a Tim Buckley performance/speech and Jeff Buckley really can’t deal with it. He leaves the room and boards a train headed to Amsterdam, New York. Allie follows. After going to an apartment where Tim used to live, Jeff decides to return to Brooklyn. Still feeling like shit, Jeff explains, “Everyone is paying tribute but they don’t even know anything about him.” He says that Tim was beaten by his father when he is younger and that Jeff had only met him twice (Tim died of accidental overdose at age 28.) Allie tries to assuage emotions by saying, “Every moment of everyday is a performance,” perhaps trying to tell him that Tim really did love him but he didn’t know how to show it.
The films end in 1966, with the scene the manager mentioned to Jeff earlier. We see Tim returning from a late night show, climbing into his son’s window. He can’t do anything but smile and laugh at his little boy. Perhaps Tim was the only thing he loved besides his music.
The last 30 minutes play as a concert film.
Jeff Buckley seems to ultimately accept the hand that life has given him. He performs masterful. He is a hit at the concert and the audience loves him. He is able to play his father’s songs just as his father did, full of soul, emotion and strength. Badgley really shines here. You forget that this is a film and instead you feel like your watching a concert tribute on HBO or something. Allie is in the crowd watching him, gazing over him like he is a rock god. At the end, Badgley stands alone and says, “Thanks, I’m Jeff Buckley.” It’s almost as if he’s finally accepted his namesake and wants to do something with it.
The tribute concert is actually a true story. Jeff Buckley had not really performed music live up to that point and the concert spurred him to become a recording artist. He was rejected by most record labels and even his father’s own manager until he signed with Columbia Records. He recorded the legendary album Grace three years later. He died when he was 30 years old in accidental drowning. No drugs or alcohol were found in his system.
Overall I really liked Greetings from Jeff Buckley. It combines the elements of a dramatic story of a father-son relationship, with a rock documentary. I didn’t know before the film that Jeff Buckley’s father was a somewhat famous folk singer. It not only gives details on Tim Buckley’s life, but showed how Jeff Buckley’s father shaped Jeff’s own music. It is slow however. I kept looking to see how much time was left in the film. I give the film a B grade.