The story behind the turbulent making and long-delayed release of "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" the highly acclaimed fourth album by Midwest alt-country/rockers Wilco begs to be told on the big screen.
After all, it's a tale filled with record-industry intrigue, band infighting and ironic humor (its "punchline" of sorts may sound unbelievable, but it's all too real).
However, had it been told as a feature film, it's likely that filmmakers would have had to compromise the story to such a degree that the message would have gotten lost. That's why it's so fortunate to have "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart." Not only does this musical documentary showcase a band that's at the top of its form, both creatively and artistically, it also serves as indictment of the ridiculously shallow, pre-fab music industry in general.
The film takes its title from the opening track of "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot." We first see the Chicago five-piece in the studio in late 2000, trying to put the opening touches on the album.
It's clear that officials at Reprise Records (the band's label at that point) aren't "getting" the concept and are having doubts about marketing it. At the same time, the group's leader, singer/songwriter Jeff Tweedy, continues to spar about its direction with multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett, who has been with this band since its beginning (as well as being with Tweedy in the latter days of his previous group, Uncle Tupelo).
If nothing else, the film would be noteworthy for the in-studio and concert performances of songs from the album, including "Kamera," "Heavy Metal Drummer" and the film's theme song, as well as older chestnuts like "Outta Mind (Outta Sight)" and "Can't Stand It."
But first-time director Sam Jones gets all the details right the award-winning photographer wisely chose black-and-white as his format and the story construction is nearly flawless. It also helps that band members make good interview subjects Tweedy is evasive but not completely uncooperative, while Bennett seems bitter and band manager Tony Margherita is brutally but refreshingly honest.
"I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" is not rated but would probably receive an R for occasional use of strong sex-related profanity and crude sexual slang terms, as well as some brief drug content (discussion of drug use and acquisition). Running time: 92 minutes.
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