Opens Fri Oct 4
I fucking love Wilco. Let's get that out of the way before I explain why I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, Sam Jones' documentary about the band, is such a mighty letdown. I am beyond a fan; I'm a foam #1 finger-toting fanatic. If Wilco had team colors, I would paint them on my face and shirtless chest while screaming "woooo" over and over again. I collect the band's bootlegs, know all of their names and former bands by heart, and even chat online with other Wilco fans. I am a Wilco nerd and this film was made for me, not you.
The majority of I Am Trying to Break Your Heart consists of footage of the band as they laboriously create and record songs for their recent Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album in their posh Chicago loft. Surrounded by an awe-inspiring amount of musical equipment and technology, the five-piece band drops down to a quartet after multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett gets the boot for being a passive-aggressive little baby. But it's not the firing that makes up the plot twist in this film; that comes later when the band's label, Reprise (owned by über-conglomerate Warner Bros), doesn't like the recordings and insists the band re-record them. The band refuses and instead takes the story to the media, where dorks like myself are up in arms over the fact that such a popular and credible band is getting the shaft. Fearing more bad press, Reprise/Warner drops the band--picking up the hefty recording tab in the process--only to have one of their offshoot labels (Nonesuch) re-sign the band for another mighty sum. Basically, they paid for the record they didn't like--twice.
Sound interesting? It's not. Documentaries on bands in the recording studio are usually a bore (for further proof, check out The Beatles' coma-inducing Let It Be). Fact is, no one other than readers of Tape Op want to see the painstaking efforts bands go through to make a record. If that wasn't enough, throw in all the thrills of contract re-negotiations and interviews with lawyers, and you'll need to fight to stay awake until the film's conclusion. Unless your idea of a good documentary includes a bunch of ridiculously talented musicians passive-aggressively arguing while perched around a mixing board, then this film is probably not for you.