“I merely say what others think, but are afraid to say,” boasts one of the four assholes holed up in a California bungalow for a week-long reunion full of drink, drugs and tiresome rants about women and work in Mark Pellington’s “I Melt with You.” Richard (Thomas Jane) is an author who’s failed to get a second novel published; Jonathan (Rob Lowe) is a physician fearful that his son’s stepfather will successfully replace him in the boy’s life; Ron (Jeremy Piven) is a stock broker at the center of a federal investigation; and Tim (Christian McKay) recently lost a loved one and could stand to see some old friends.
What follows is initially a noxious requiem for the middle-aged man, complete with the occasional assault of on-screen titles that read “I am a man. I’m married. I don’t love my wife. I’m losing my hair,” serving as a faux-profound reprieve from a blow-out best described as Neveldine/Taylor remaking “The Big Chill.” It’s a gaudy, hazy, proudly cheap-looking affair from the usually competent Pellington (“Arlington Road,” “The Mothman Prophecies“), an attempt to capture the daze of these four 44-year-olds that works perhaps all too well at steeping the audience in their collectively angsty mindset; if Piven’s character on “Entourage” was all about hugging it out, then he and the others here are determined to replace hugs with drugs for the duration of their stay.
Tragedy rears its ugly head around the hour mark, as the problems of the present give way to a promise from the past and the raucous, repetitive revelry segues into the formula of a bland thriller – “Shallow Grave” for shallow individuals. Glenn Porter’s screenplay doesn’t deviate from the things-gone-awry routine as the boys try to put on a straight face for local sheriff Carla Gugino once she begins snooping around, and the remainder of the film’s interminable 125-minute running time is devoted to waiting for other shoes to drop.
As an ensemble, Jane, Lowe, Piven and McKay find themselves equally powered by swagger and plagued by sadness, viably bound by their horndog ideals and hangdog demeanors, and their performances rival one another only in sheer obnoxiousness. With increasing amounts of stubble and saddle bags beneath their eyes, they all dig deep into the misery and regret that consumes each member of the quarter, but each actor’s work feels like the loudest, longest exercise in futility, seeing as the world would be at no great loss if none of these men got their shit together in the end.
The closest thing to mercy that “I Melt With You” can offer is a soundtrack full of decent ‘80s tunes with which to evoke the youth that this quartet so sullenly pines for, a quality fitting of Pellington’s extensive music video experience. However fleetingly, the music helps cancel out the noise of characters saying what they think in a film that insists on literally spelling out how they feel, in big white letters against the backdrop of a seemingly endless void. [D-]
“I Melt With You” is out on VOD now.