Richard (Thomas Jane), Ron (Jeremy Piven), Jonathan (Rob Lowe) and Tim (Christian McKay) gather in Big Sur, Calif., for their annual week-long reunion. Now in their 40s with families and careers—albeit not quite what they’d imagined as young men on the cusp of adulthood—they’ve been friends since college and share a quarter-century of life experience. Over the course of their stay in a posh rental property, they reminisce about old times, listen to the New Wave/punk rock tunes of their youth … and consume an inordinate amount of illicit and prescription drugs—all against a gorgeous natural backdrop of surf and sand dunes.
Their time together is boisterous and bacchanal, but there’s an air of sadness to this gathering, of depression, anxiety and fear. Once a talented aspiring writer, confirmed bachelor Richard now teaches creative writing to grade-school kids. By all appearances, Ron is a successful family man, but one-sided phone calls suggest he’s in some sort of legal trouble. Divorced, Jonathan is a physician who writes prescriptions to desperate housewives for cash and sees his son every other weekend. And Tim is still mourning the death of his boyfriend five years ago.
Tim seems to have an agenda, pulling each of his friends aside and probing him for insight into how his life has turned out, and they’re confronted with idealistic younger versions of themselves when they invite a bunch of college kids over to party. By comparison, these men are bitter and disillusioned, and confirming this, Tim holds the men to a pact they made 25 years ago.
Directed by Mark Pellington (an accomplished helmer of music videos, TV and film whose most recent big-screen projects include Henry Poole Is Here and U2 3D), I Melt with You is a movie made by men for men. It fancies itself “an allegory exploring the darker side of the modern male psyche,” but there’s nothing allegorical about it. “The darker side of the modern male psyche” is exactly what the film depicts, but it mistakes these men’s disappointment and disenchantment as singular to the (white) male experience, suggesting that these characters are somehow special for having forfeited their dreams when faced with real life. As such, their grand gesture is completely out of proportion.
Meanwhile, their descent into madness is filmed with a handheld digital camera that achieves an intimacy suitable for the material but becomes indulgent and irritating when it, too, behaves like it’s loaded. Instead of sympathizing with these jackasses—with the possible exception of Tim, whose grief is visceral—one wants to scream exactly what they don’t want to hear: “Oh, grow up.”
Director: Mark Pellington
Writer: Glenn Porter (screenplay)
Starring: Thomas Jane, Rob Lowe, Jeremy Piven & Christian McKay
Release Date: Dec. 9, 2011