It had to happen, right? Sooner or later, someone was bound to make a film about Jeff Buckley—the gifted singer-guitarist who’s second only to Jim Morrison in the Sexy Dead Rocker cult department. To his credit, director and cowriter Dan Algrant doesn’t attempt a stem-to-stern biopic of the late musician; there’s no formative-year fretting at a SoCal music school, no reputation-making gigs at the Sin-é café and no fateful dives into a Memphis river. Instead, this rockudrama irises into a few specific weeks of his life, when Jeff (Gossip Girl’s Penn Badgley, all moody handsomeness) is coaxed into participating in a tribute concert to his dad, the ’60s folksinger Tim Buckley (Ben Rosenfield). Flashbacks of the paternally AWOL Age of Aquarius troubadour are haphazardly sprinkled in, and the movie becomes a father-son tale, as Pop’s tunes finally allow his offspring to find his own voice.
Bravo for the left-field angle, except that jettisoning a standard A-to-Z narrative doesn’t mean you’re immune from the genre’s clichés, which Greetings draws in like iron filings: eureka moments (hey, that jamming sounds like…the title track from his debut album, Grace!), onstage epiphanies, adoring looks from an underwritten supportive female character (Imogen Poots). Other than an impromptu spectacle in a downtown record store, little of the chops and charisma Buckley fils had in spades is channeled; this is still the usual Let Us Now Praise Famous Men karaoke session, wrapped up in some extra-discordantly warbled notes.
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