Mark Pellington’s drama I Melt With You starts off as a story about a group of male friends enjoying a getaway where they consume copious amounts of alcohol and drugs. However, events take a much darker turn around halfway through the film, when something from the past comes back to haunt them.
The four men in their 40s, who all went to college together, reunite for a week-long catch-up in a house overlooking the sea in Big Sur. Each of them is happy to escape their normal lives for a hazy week of drinking and drug-taking, as they are all unhappy, disillusioned, and full of regrets.
Richard (Thomas Jane) is a womaniser and unsuccessful author who has begrudgingly become a high school English teacher. Jonathan (Rob Lowe) is a doctor who writes prescriptions for money and is becoming detached from his son, who calls his new stepfather “Dad”. Ron (Jeremy Piven) is a stock broker who is at the centre of a federal investigation. Tim (Christian McKay) is a man who feels responsible for the recent loss of his loved ones. None of these are really likeable or identifiable characters, and the only positive attribute we see is their close friendship and fondness for each other.
The friends go swimming, driving, fishing, and partying, but mainly they drink and take drugs while moping around and complaining about how awful their lives are. After a few days, these excessive and repetitive festivities make way for much darker events, as a pact they all made when they were younger re-emerges and things get even more out of control. The pact that changes the tone of the film and the subsequent events is a little hard to believe in. Would you really follow through on an agreement you made in college when you were young (and probably drunk and high)? They all take it a bit too seriously instead of just dismissing it.
The film’s best feature is its soundtrack of punk music from the ‘80s. The roaring and pounding tunes from the likes of the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Pixies, Talking Heads, Dead Kennedys, and The Specials, add to the drug-fuelled, hazy atmosphere. They hark back to a time that the four men are pining for and help them to relive their youth, when they were carefree and had fewer troubles.
I Melt With You is a visual assault that is full of angst and excess. Eric Schmidt’s stylish cinematography and the picturesque locations make it a fine-looking film, but at times it feels like an overlong music video. This may have something to do with Mark Pellington’s history directing lots of videos for bands including Pearl Jam, U2, and Foo Fighters. I Melt With You is a treat for the eyes and ears at times and it has a solid cast, but it’s a film of two distinct halves and unfortunately neither of them are particularly impressive story-wise.