AFI FEST Review: ‘I Melt With You’ – With Friends Like These, You’ll Be Lucky to Make It Through the Weekend
What happens when four grown men get together for a weekend away from their families and jobs? They turn into drugged-up, sexed-up frat guys! (Naturally?) College buddies Richard (Thomas Jane), Jonathan (Rob Lowe), Ron (Jeremy Piven), and Tim (Christian McKay) come together for a weekend not just away from their lives, but apparently also away from their own minds. As soon as Doctor Jon shows up with his medical bag full of enough pills, powders, and injections to make you the most popular person at an NA meeting, the boys jump down the rabbit hole of excess and never look back.
Mark Pellington’s I Melt With You will make you thankful that most frats (or guys that age) do not have access to expensive toys like cars, boats, cliffside vacation homes, and more drugs than Michael Jackson would even know what to do with (sorry, MJ). I understand escapism and wanting to indulge every so often, but I Melt With You crosses the line from self-destruction into just plain destruction so quickly that it will leave you feeling as if you are reeling from your own all-night bender.
Before things truly spin out of control, we get glimpses of information about what is going on in each of the men’s lives with the hope that it will shed some light on why they would destroy their bodies and minds so handily over the span of a weekend. Richard is a struggling, unpublished novelist teaching high school English, Jonathan is a pill pusher to his Real Housewives of Wherever “patients,” Ron’s love of money may have gotten him into some serious legal trouble, and Tim is still mourning the outcome a tragic car accident. The boys reunite to celebrate Tim’s birthday and, considering his less-than-happy state of mind, their attempt to forget everything almost make sense. But it’s clear that Tim really just wants to talk to somebody (anybody), and when he’s only handed a bottle instead of a shoulder to cry on, it’s the first sign that this vacation is destined to take a dangerous turn.
Director Pellington attempts to make his film come across as edgy with loud music and flashy title cards that appear at seeming random throughout the film, but all of his overproduction will only make audience want to throw themselves over the edge to escape the seemingly endless quick cuts, pounding music, and bright lights. Pellington comes from the world of music videos, but that aesthetic does not translate to a two-hour narrative, causing I Melt With You to be more headache-inducing than thought-provoking.
But despite all these horrific stylistic flourishes, the most upsetting part of the film is how abhorrently selfish these men are. Yes, their lives are not everything they hoped they would be back in college, but things are not that bad. It is hard to sympathize with characters this self-destructive, but even more so when it is difficult to believe anything they say. The group is constantly reaffirming that they are each other’s closest friends, yet they only see each other once a year. And when they do get together, they talk mainly about the past, rather than what is actually going on in their lives. If they had taken a moment to try to have a real conversation that lasted longer than five minutes, the actions that cause the narrative to quickly spin out of control (and into some very dark territory) could possibly have been avoided.
The entire journey is like watching an extreme version of Peter Pan syndrome, on acid, and then lit on fire. These men are essentially punishing themselves for changing and growing past the kids they were in college. We all want to relive our glory days from time to time, but who’s to say those days are all behind us? Maybe our best days have not even happened yet? Rather than recognizing that each one of them is struggling and using this time together to help each other, they tear each other down with brutal consequences.
I Melt With You is not the type of film you “man up” to see (especially considering there are no real “men” in this film) and it is neither funny nor entertaining to watch the group destroy themselves and everything around them. I Melt With You does not melt, it burns everyone and everything in its path, and by its end, you are as desensitized as the four buddies after their first all-night rager.
The Upside: The four turn in decent performances (with Thomas Jane and Rob Lowe standing out the most) which are sadly diluted by the increasing insanity going on around them.
The Downside: Everything? Jokes aside – the addition of local cop Laura (Carla Gugino) to the mix came off as too random and almost comical, never really helping to advance the plot or showcase Gugino’s talents as an actress.
On the Side: Pellington’s background in music videos may have made his style of filmmaking a bit jarring, but it did in turn provide the film with a killer soundtrack (granted, it was all played in the film much louder than it needed to be) boasting artists such as The Clash, Talking Heads, Dead Kennedys, Sex Pistols, and Modern English.