As a self declared Jeff Buckley fanatic, seeing this recent biopic directed by Daniel Algrant (Naked In New York, People I Know) was not optional. Although my initial reaction to the notion of a Jeff Buckley film was to cringe, the possibility of getting one more taste of this unique and short-lived talent made it worth the risk.
Rather than predictably presenting this film as a linear depiction of Jeff's rise and tragic fall, the film focuses on the relationship between Jeff and his absent father, 60's cult, folk icon Tim Buckley. In 1991 Jeff is invited to perform at a tribute concert for Tim, forcing him to confront his own feelings towards the father he never knew. The film's climax is Jeff's performance, one that ultimately broke his own brief but prolific career.
Penn Badgley's portrayal of the confused and searching Jeff is commendable, complete with evocative imitations of Jeff's signature falsetto. In particular, the scene that sees him and concert worker, Allie (Imogen Poots), scrounging through an old record store is not only one of the highlights of the film but was also the audition scene that secured the role for Badgley.
However, it's hard to know exactly where this film is aimed in terms of audience. For Jeff fans there's too much Tim while for Tim fans, it's ultimately a movie about Jeff (although with the glaring omission of any of his music). Moreover, for those who are new to both Buckley's, it's simply a very slow journey that leaves a lot to audience imagination.
For such a unique and interesting story - that of a father and son who never knew each other but whose lives were hauntingly similar - it's a pity the end product is so lacklustre. Scenes drag and aspects of the ending feel like an afterthought. Also the incorporation of sound bites from real Jeff footage into the script feels rather cheap.
Overall, this attempt is admirable in its unique approach but fails to live up to the reputation of either of its subjects.