Tuesday, 25 January 2011
SUNDANCE 2011: I Melt With You
Starring: Thomas Jane, Rob Lowe, Jeremy Piven, Christian McKay, Carla Gugino
By Alan Bacchus
Imagine the four young kids from Stand By Me grew up to be raging cokeheads who annually reunite in a week-long hedonistic binge fest pushing their bodies to the limit in terms of shear drug capacity. Minus the Stand By Me reference this is the starting point for Mark Pellington’s monumentally preposterous male-melodrama I Melt With You.
For Jonathan, Richard, Ron and Tim it’s time for their annual reunion, this year in a spectacular rented mansion somewhere on the California coast overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Immediately upon arrival the coke gets spilled out and the fun begins. Long montage scenes show the buddies getting really really high, and drunk and acting like buffoonish cavemen. This lasts for days, some locals kids from the bar even stop by to partake in the action, one of whom is played by the notorious Sasha Grey. By day the boys fish, race cars on the beach all the while doing more cocaine, and set to a every drug-related 80’s pop tune you can think of.
Pellington’s cacophony of mind-numbing visual and aural stimulation is like Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers with a dash of Enter the Void as written by Bret Easton Ellis. Unfortunately when laid over the bombastic and soulless story crafted by Pellington and his writer Glenn Porter it's as inert as a stale fart.
Admittedly it takes an hour of repetitious excessive drug use treated as a glorified tool for male bonding and machoness in order for the shoe to drop. The continual beat down of these toxic substances, and stylized montage sequences, had me half packing my bag to get up and leave. The shoe finally drops at the half way mark, when one of the friends commit suicide, a dramatic turn which admittedly piqued my curiosity. Ok, this might finally be going somewhere…
Unfortunately, though the tone shifts to sombre reflections on the nagging issues with each of the men, Pellington and his actors remain high as kites with histrionics cranked to the max. A letter written 25 years ago by the four friends fuels the next set of decisions in this second act. The men make the absolute worst decision possible by burying their dead friend in the backyard, while contemplating the contents of said letter (the exact details of which are hidden from us until the end).
The entire time Pellington intercuts more slo-motion wideangle close-ups of cocaine being hovered into their noses, flashes of preachy white-on-black text, and random stock shots of 9/11 and the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. The super-glossy cinematography is too pristine and slick for it‘s own good, lacking any kind of texture, thus rendering it all as superficial and manipulative as a Nike or Levi’s commercial.
There‘s actually some rather strong themes of brotherhood and the male ego gone awry buried in all this mess. In the second half of the picture Pellington admirably takes his characters to task for all their debauchery and immoral behaviour, but without an ounce of grace, respite or shred of realism, I Melt With You, feels as dumb as last year's Sundance bomb Joel Schumacher's Twelve.