Movie review: Father, son and wholly ghostly story in “Greetings from Tim Buckley”

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From the May 16, 2013 edition

Two generations of talent and sadness are depicted in “Greetings from Tim Buckley,” a fictionalized depiction of late singer Jeff Buckley and his non-existent relationship with his father, late singer Tim Buckley.

Whereas many biopics fall into the trap of trying to encompass a whole life in two hours, “Greetings” focus is almost too narrow. The plot is a phantom, as the elder Buckley was in the life of the younger.

In 1991, a young Jeff Buckley (Penn Badgely of TV’s “Gossip Girl”) is in New York City rehearsing for a musical tribute to his late father (Ben Rosenfield). Jeff is reluctant to bear his dad’s legacy, but his uncanny talent is beginning to bloom.

Director Daniel Algrant has a gentle touch with the tale, interweaving the lives and loves of Jeff and his father at similar times in their lives, a connection that continued in their early deaths.

The resulting imagination of this tale feels a bit like when Gus Van Sant had that “sort of mostly based on real life” phase with the Kurt Cobain-inspired “Last Days” and the Columbine shooting-inspired “Elephant.”

More tone piece than narrative, “Greetings” is a worthwhile watch, particularly for Buckley fans. Badgely’s performance — especially a scene of spontaneous singing in a record store — should please most fans, even if the overall experience is a bit muddy.

“Greetings from Tim Buckley”

Opens Friday at the Gateway

2 1/2 stars out of 4