Fans of the Chicago alt-country-pop combo, Wilco, will need no introduction to Sam Jones' I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, a documentary opening this Friday in Chapel Hill and Raleigh theaters. The film chronicles a difficult and dramatic year in the life of the band, one that culminated in the release of their most recent album, the celebrated Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.Jones and his camera crew began filming the documentary two winters ago, when Wilco first began compiling and rehearsing new songs for the album. Determined to create a masterpiece, it was a rude shock to the band when their record label, Reprise, rejected the album. The film also captures growing tensions betweed bandleader Jeff Tweedy and another key musician, though it is not always to the benefit of Tweedy.
In fact, Tweedy's charmlessness is the film's biggest drawback. Although he and the film's director are admittedly under the influence of D.A. Pennebaker's epochal Don't Look Back (a ground-breaking docudrama on the life of Bob Dylan), Tweedy lacks the charisma, mystery and sheer obnoxiousness of the young Dylan. I Am Trying to Break Your Heart also suffers some from the pomposity of the band and its supporters--we are told over and over what a glorious gift to humanity Wilco is, something that never happened in Don't Look Back.
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart is closer in spirit to Rattle and Hum, another celebration of a self-important band made by a fervent fan. Additionally, like the U2 film, I Am Trying to Break Your Heart is stuffed with great music that redeems the hubris of the project. Tweedy may be a bit of a pill, but his ironic, catchy and raucous tunes make this movie well worth catching.