Just as grumbling about Warner/Reprise’s abandonment of Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot elevated a serviceable psychedelic-folk record into a state-of-the-industry rallying call and Lost Masterpiece, so the grassroots indignance—which ended with Foxtrot‘s triumphant April release on, um, Warner/Nonesuch—has enabled wider distribution for a film that’s largely a for-fans artifact. Director Sam Jones began shooting I Am Trying to Break Your Heart (Cowboy, opens July 26 at Cinema Village) during the recording sessions for Foxtrot, and lends plenty of screen time to the band driving around, noodling in the studio, sound-checking, etc. A wildly distended verbal dispute between mild-mannered frontman Jeff Tweedy and his needy semi-collaborator Jay Bennett foreshadows Bennett’s ejection from the band, and Tweedy’s palpable agony when ambushed backstage by a battalion of Warner schmoozers portends imminent trouble (though you wouldn’t know it from all those Colgate smiles).
Jones’s documentary, named for the opening song on Foxtrot, is most effective as a poison-pen missive to Corporate Rock, relishing the absurdity of a behemoth that ditches a critical darling only to buy them back at three times the price. Tweedy comes across as a patient, gentle soul—not the most scintillating doc subject for the very reason that he seems like one of the nicest guys you’d ever hope to meet. But Wilco devotees, who will receive the movie with open arms, could have told you that.