How far would you go for your dream, and how long would you spend pursuing it? That’s the question married couple Jim Hanft and Samantha Yonack ask themselves after a decade of playing music together as the songwriting duo, Jim & Sam. Though they’ve been dedicated in their pursuit of success, nothing has worked in bringing the band to a bigger level. Yet, they don’t want to put their goal to rest. It’s with this impetus that they decide to strike out and play a show a day, for an entire year. After all, they figure “making something every single day” is better than letting another 10 years go by. And so they embark on a mega tour, crisscrossing the globe, committed to 365 concerts, no matter what.
This “documentary” is very cute. I say documentary in quotes because it’s as much a peek into a couple’s iPhone as it is a long ad for their band. (There is a small film crew, but much of the footage we’re privy to is recorded on a cellphone.) You can’t fault Jim and Sam – the newlyweds seem very sweet and genuinely earnest. That said, and I mean this kindly, the concept for the tour does come off as a bit gimmicky. But, as a former marketing director, I have to say the approach is smart. It takes a lot to stand out in the cutthroat music business, and giving club promoters, bookers, and journalists something catchy to run with is an excellent idea.
Of course, not everything goes smoothly. The big band they banked the majority of their tour on suddenly “doesn’t need an opening act,” leaving huge holes in their carefully crafted schedule. Their landlord finds out about their plan to sublet their apartment and puts an end to a major source of their revenue stream. And, despite being a couple for 10 years, their recent wedding adds a challenge to their long relationship as they learn the ins and outs of becoming husband and wife.
The best part of the film is everything that happens outside of the traditional shows, for this is where the real magic takes place. In an effort to fill their quota they set up and play in the most unique “venues,” including: a nail salon, an ice cream shop (in the middle of a blizzard, no less), an airport, a gas station, a gondola, and a bodega where they croon a tune to help the cashier celebrate his birthday. (The best part might be when they play for a herd of cattle. Those cows were feeling that music, and it was adorable!)
I won’t spoil it for you, but their efforts do come to fruition with some recognition from a higher-up in the industry. However, even though they do get their chance to grab a brass ring, they come to the realization that it was the journey that was the prize all along. They finally understand it’s not the big shows that change everything, it’s often the little moments that are the shift.
This is a sweet travelogue of a well-intentioned couple, but ultimately there’s not enough tension or oomph to make much of a mark. The film did its job in nabbing industry attention but won’t hold the viewer’s much past a single viewing.
Nuggets – more film thoughts:
* The aforementioned lack of tension is one of the biggest problems with the movie. I mean, I’m sorry things didn’t go as expected, but it’s hard to get overly worked up about two cute, young people who experience a few financial bumps while having the privilege of touring the world. The biggest hurdles are when they bicker over a speeding ticket, and later when Sam is waylaid by the flu? That must be nice.
* The scene where the tough-looking bikers talk about the law of attraction in front of a bakery is my favorite thing in life. You’ll know it when you see it!
* A shoutout to my friend, Philip Graham, whose gorgeous Ear Trumpet microphones are featured prominently throughout the film!
* This was obviously filmed pre-COVID and I can’t help thinking how grateful Jim and Sam must be that they got to document and experience this journey before the world changed. I watched this stuck at home on my couch and hungrily eyed every airport and European café. It’s worth a look just to see the world through their lens, if for a moment.
* And here is my completely unsolicited opinion about their band name – it needs to change! Jim and Sam are adorable, but what does their band name conjure up? For me, I picture two dudes in flannel strumming guitars at their local microbrewery during Happy Hour. This is not who or what they are. They’ve long been confused as to why they’re not making it bigger and I believe this is partially what’s holding them back. Where is the pizazz? Take a look at the names of other duos who are also couples (or, famously, used to be couples):
The White Stripes
The Heavenly States
The Ting Tings
Also, duos who are not romantically linked but have band name allure: The Black Keys, The Kills, MGMT, Sleigh Bells, Calexico, The Spinanes, Tegan & Sara. (Yes, Tegan and Sara are their actual names. But Tegan’s unique moniker gives them that memorable edge.)
And so on. You see where I’m going with this. If they really want to be a band, they should get a real band name. Also missing (that’s present in the above successful musical acts) that Jim and Sam desperately need: DRUMS! Somebody needs to Karen Carpenter it up, posthaste. You’re welcome!