We have invented the word “bromance” to describe a close yet non-sexual relationship between two or more men. I wonder if there’s a word yet to describe the characters in I Melt with You. These would be four male friends, all forty-four years of age, who have led separate lives since their college days but make it a point to reunite once a year. If what they share is a bromance, it’s a very bad one indeed. In the opening scene, they convene in a secluded Pacific Northwest beach house perched high atop a cliff. They then spend the next several days snorting various powders, smoking various cigarettes, abusing various medications, and drinking various boozes with reckless abandon, all while unleashing a primal adolescent maleness. There’s an intimacy here not normally associated with traditional male friendships. We see bare chests, a little nudity, a lot of hugging, some mutual pill popping, and a surprising amount of crying.
“Unpleasant” is not a strong enough word to describe I Melt with You. Watching it is a little like being the only sober person trapped in a heroin den. We’re forced to bear witness to an ugly and aggressive cycle of self destruction; when these men aren’t getting high out of their minds, they talk about their miserable, unfulfilled lives in depressing, profanity-laced fatalisms. The entire second half, which cannot be described without the issuing of a spoiler warning, is especially unbearable. The message we’re ultimately delivered is one of astounding wrong-headed negativity, which, appallingly, is glorified for the sake of entertainment. It’s as if the filmmakers are laboring under the delusion that they’re saying something we need to hear. This is a disgusting movie. I don’t think any power on earth can make me watch it again.
The four friends are Jonathan, Richard, Ron, and Tim. Jonathan (Rob Lowe) is a doctor. He’s divorced and in a perpetual funk because his young son considers his stepfather his dad. All throughout the film, he consumes handfuls of pills as if they were candy, and he usually washes them down with alcohol. How this man is still alive is anyone’s guess. Richard (Thomas Jane) is an English teacher who got one book published. He spends most of the film either poetically brooding or feeding into his aggressive hedonistic tendencies, all the while under the influence of anything and everything in sight. Ron (Jeremy Piven) is in financial services and has a wife and several daughters. He only feels like a real man when he provides for them. He has, therefore, justified taking a few illegal liberties with his job. Tim (Christian McKay) is either gay or bisexual, I honestly don’t remember which, and spends all of his screen time mourning the deaths of his sister and boyfriend.
Their disturbing pattern of hard partying, male posturing, and savage honesty reveals four men that are profoundly disillusioned with life. These men have real problems, and yet we don’t sympathize with them because the coping skills they’ve adopted are incredibly unhealthy – some would even say immoral. By ingesting a never-ending supply of booze and narcotics, their goal is not to numb themselves but to inch ever closer to blessed oblivion. In other words, rather than a real solution, they each seek nothing more than an escape. They’re cowards, although they don’t have the courage to admit it. Neither do the filmmakers. With their quick edits and bizarre close-ups and angles supplemented with an alternative rock soundtrack, director Mark Pellington depicts most of the drug scenes with the tact, sensitivity, and intelligence of a music video.
Something … well, something happens. At this point, we’re made aware of a pact the four of them made twenty-five years earlier. It was written on a piece of paper and kept by Tim all these years. They’re now faced with the awesome responsibility of living up to the promises each of them made. All of a sudden, I feel like I’m describing a particularly bad rehash of a Stephen King novel, specifically Dreamcatcher, which was also about four male friends with an unusual bond gathering once a year in a secluded location. And wouldn’t you know it, its 2003 film adaptation also starred Thomas Jane! Is that what attracted him to I Melt with You? Too bad this story doesn’t involve aliens that breed in the bowels and emerge from the anus.
Later scenes involve a local cop played by Carla Gugino, who sniffs around the seaside home convinced that something isn’t quite right. She would, of course, be correct. No, I can’t tell you why. To be perfectly honest, I’m sorry that I ever find out. There’s only one thing worse than a movie that doesn’t make a point, and that’s a movie that makes a bad point. With its hideous visuals, ceaselessly somber tone, unendurably repetitious depictions of substance abuse, and deeply unsettling expressions of bromantic love, I Melt with You makes a statement so craven and defeatist that you’re sure to feel hopeless for days afterwards – perhaps even longer, since you know that those two hours of your life are nonrefundable. I can’t imagine how anyone could possibly find it insightful or even entertaining. This movie is inexcusable.
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