Sundance Review: I Melt With You

Tuesday, January 25 by

I Melt With You is exactly the kind of indie movie I was worried about seeing at Sundance. 46 people walked out during the press and industry screening. I figured after about 80 minutes, whoever stayed was in it until the end but no, a mass exodus around 90 minutes in doubled my count into the 40s. Numbers 45 and 46 left only minutes from the end, they just couldn’t bear to stick it out.

It’s not so much that the film is offensive. It’s just repulsive. Richard (Thomas Jane), Ron (Jeremy Piven), Jonathan (Rob Lowe) and Tim (Christian McKay) get together for their annual week-long cocaine and pharmaceutical binge (Jonathan’s a doctor). They only do this once a year, so they go all out. Maybe if they fixed the other 358 days of the year, they wouldn’t need to act out for seven.

The style introduces itself right away with throbbing beats muting out the scenes introducing each character. Text cards make a lot of statements, mostly beginning with “I Am…” By the end of the film, director Mark Pellington is cutting in footage of the Challenger explosion. Forget tasteless. That’s just nonsense.

The foursome’s behavior is repulsive, especially Richard jumping on the furniture. The guys slam dance. Honestly, I outgrew that in sixth grade. Worst is how the film celebrates this. It’s not a stark portrayal of how adults go bad. It’s portrayed as their reward for putting up with life all year. Basic therapy or spirituality would say if you need to drown out your painful thoughts, you need to work on better thoughts.

Of course they’re just numbing the pain. Each character eventually reveals what they’re really hiding from. Tim actually tries to get through to the other three, why Richard sleeps around, why Jonathan lost his family to a new man, why Ron got in trouble with the SEC. The characters, especially Ron and Richard, are all self-righteously confident that they know how bad things get when you grow up. A young bartender (Arielle Kebbel) has their number, but that’s the only brief voice of reason.

While Tim works out his own tragedy, he has a three way with Raven (Sasha Grey) and another man. While Tim’s crying in between them, Raven talks about helping him find nirvana. Come on! This is not a dig against Grey, I believe she could be spiritual and wise, but the movie is not. It all leads up to some vague talk about a promise the guys all made as seniors.

Oh, also Officer Boyde (Carla Gugino) starts noticing they keep getting into trouble. The film cuts away to Boyde randomly discussing relationships with her friend Katie (Melora Walters). Katie is never seen again, but she gives Boyde a chance to unload her theories on men.

It’s not a matter of filmmaking incompetence. This is all on purpose. They meant to make it exactly this way. The one positive I can say is the acting is good. I really believed Thomas Jane, Jeremy Piven, Rob Lowe and Christian McKay were high.