I Melt With You (2011) Directed by Mark Pellington
Captain Bob: I left school when I was 14. Sea kept me moving so I never had any reunions. Except with my wife after long fishing trips. She died 11 years ago. Cancer. So I spent most of my days out here, just drifting around trying to figure things out. I realized I was lucky to have felt something that looked or smelled... or resembled real love. Most folks never taste that.
Tim: I tasted it, and it made every day…anointed. Nothing mattered when we were together. And when we were apart, I felt him. I felt him, like my own breath.
Captain Bob: Do you believe in heaven?
Tim: ...I wish I did.
Greetings once again, Dr. Heinrich Schadenfreude here, with another cinematic case file to discuss with you today. I am a splinter personality of Talyseon, who is a splinter personality himself, but that is another case for another time. I just like to say I am born of too much caffeine, and not enough sleep, and the influence of too many psychology classes. The movies Talyseon watches don't help either. But that segues us nicely into the movie, I Melt With You.
First; let me issue a warning; this review will contain spoilers, because I am picking this movie apart, and there is no way to do that and not tell you the ending. So, for the purists, forgive me.
This is the story about four friends who have met for a reunion, and the baggage they bring with them.
Richard (Thomas Jane) is a writer. Okay, he’s published a book, and he wants to be a writer, but what he really does is teach English. Richard is not married; he still plays the field. Any field. As long as he scores. Sex is obviously an addiction.
Jonathan (Rob Lowe) is a doctor. He is divorced, sees his son alternate weekends. However, his friends are very glad to see him, and his little black bag of drugs (prescription and illegal).
Ron (Jeremy Piven) is the only one who is actually married. He adores his wife and kids. While what he does is never explicitly stated, evidence suggests he is an investment banker. We also know there is trouble at work.
Tim (Christian McKay) is the only person who doesn’t have anyone in his life. While Richard may have a string of one night stands, Tim leaves an empty house behind, and carries an empty heart with him. Tim is the odd man out; Tim is gay, and Tim is a widower. His husband died five years ago. It is obvious his friends have helped him survive; he thanks Richard because Richard never once suggested he forget anything. He just was there to ride out the pain. And there is a lot of pain, and no small amount of guilt.
These men have been friends since childhood. They swore in their last days of adolescence to always remain friends, and they have kept that promise. Every year, they get together for a week of shedding responsibilities and acting like the self-centered adolescents they once were. They do a prodigious amount of drugs. My liver aches just watching them. Not only do they have an endless supply of booze, but the naughty doctor has brought a candy store in a bag. Richard has bought a Porsche with the expressed purpose of driving it into the ground this trip. Each of them is running from demons, but here, together, they hope to shut them up behind a wall of recreational chemicals and excess.
This year though, the demons are slipping through the cracks. Jonathan is weighted down by the loss of his son, who calls his stepfather daddy, and by his guilt that most of his business comes out of his prescription pad. The messages on Ron’s phone indicate that some gentleman from the FBI would like to speak with him. And as Tim’s story unfolds, we see not only did he lose his husband, his sister was killed in the same crash, and it was Tim’s fault. Even Richard is beginning to feel that there has to be something more than teaching snot-nosed yuppie larva by day, and banging their mothers by night.
Rather than face their fears, share them openly, these facts are revealed one on one, usually with Richard, the glue of the quartet. And rather than options, support, or encouragement, his answer is usually another form of escapism.
The final item binding these men is a pact they made, signed in blood when they were young, and the world contained nothing but possibilities, no responsibilities, no compromises, no regrets. They agreed they would always remember who they were in that moment, live their lives to fulfill those possibilities, and should they fail, they would die as one.
Tim starts. And the rest, in their own time, and own ways, follow.
Now, this is a wonderful story on some levels; I think everyone should have a handful of friends that are always there, and have been there. There is no substitute for shared history. I love the open, loving dynamic they have. They are not afraid to show affection. Having a gay friend, they have each examined their own homosexuality, come to terms with it, or it’s lack, and moved on. It allows them freedom many men never experience, such as the freedom to go skinny dipping in the ocean. And yes there is a rather glorious scene where all four of them are racing towards the water, tushies shining in the sun. My congrats to all four gentlemen, even at the age of 48 (Lowe) they have kept very nice backsides. They also all manage to turn in completely convincing performances as self destructive men in the midst of a midlife crisis. Is that acting, or type casting?
However, I question if a moose could survive the cocktail of drugs they subject themselves to; Dr. Jonathan has a wide variety of psychotropics, and a mountain of coke. I have seen successful suicides that involved half the pills and a quarter of the variety. And it is obvious that each of them is fighting aging. Ha! They are 44. What do they truly know of aging? What they are really fighting is leaving adolescence.
And while there are many funny moments when they are high, and many tender moments when they are wasted, the movie is unrelenting in the building despair, because every action they take is scripted to increase the speed along their spiral of self destruction.
This does not make for a happy movie. In fact, it makes for a very dark depressing movie. Now that is not in itself a bad thing, but what I find unforgivable is that there is no message. You could sum the socially redeeming value of the movie up in this way; “Don’t do drugs, don’t steal, don’t sell out your dreams, and do forgive yourself when things go horribly wrong.” Does it really take two hours to bring that message across? One Licensed Professional Counselor could have saved the lot with weekly sessions for about a year.
So, here is Dr. Heinrich Schadenfreude’s advice for anyone who thinks this movie reminds them of their life: if you think your life is heading down the drain, stop swimming with the current.
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Movie Mood: Serious Movie
Film Completeness: Looked complete to me.
Worst Part of this Film: Plot