Tribeca Review: “Talihina Sky”

Kings of Leon arrived in 2003 with a too perfect backstory. Nathan, Caleb, and Jared Followill, three sons of a Pentecostal preacher, and their cousin Matthew, had turned their backs on all their Christly upbringing to dive headlong into a life of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. A documentary about how and why they made the transition from godfearing church singers to rock hedonists certainly sounds as though it should be engrossing. Unfortunately, “Talihina Sky” barely skims the surface of the story, as it skips back and forth across time, devoid of direction or narrative.

“Talihina Sky,” which takes its name from the area where the boys’ families still live and hold their annual reunion, is chockfull of all sorts of tidbits, moments and insights that might be of interest to the band’s fans. But for the rest of the world, it will just feel like a hodgepodge of biographical data.

Director Stephen Mitchell, who’s been hanging with the band from the beginning, takes an almost voyeuristic approach to the less famous Followills, occasionally including clips solely for the spectacle of their hillbilly ways. It’s one thing to show a beloved uncle chasing snakes while one of the Kings talks about how cool he is; it’s another entirely to show a cousin sporting a ridiculous hat while talking about the best place in the area to buy socks.

And then there’s Angelo. We watch him riding up the street on a bicycle, giant bug sunglasses and thick bushy sideburns, as we hear one of the boys talk about how they started writing songs with him early on. But that’s about all we get about or from Angelo—there’s nothing about where he came from, how he fits in, nothing.

The only hint as to what led the boys to forsake the ways of their parents is a story about how one of them discovered a beer can under the porch of their home, the first clue any of them had that their father was an alcoholic. This was apparently a transformative moment for the boys, and understandably so, but it only begins to explain how they got to be one of the biggest rock bands in the world.

Whether you like the Kings of Leon or not, it would appear there’s a great story, but Mitchell fails to tell it with any sort of cohesion, leaving you wishing that someone had just handed all that footage from “Talihina Sky” to the geniuses at VH1’s “Behind the Music.”

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