Look, it’s tough to be a middle-aged, middle-class white man in today’s society. Sure, maybe it’s just as tough (or, y’know, tougher… just sayin’) to be female, a minority, or poor. But that doesn’t automatically invalidate a filmmaker attempting to tell a story about four reasonably well-to-do guys sharing their respective midlife crises over one drug-fueled week. We are who we are, we feel what we feel, and our art needs to reflect that, or we’re lying to ourselves. So good for director Mark Pellington and screenwriter Glenn Porter for having the guts to make I Melt With You, a movie about self-absorbed douchebags that wallows in their douchebaggery.
But honesty alone can’t compensate for shittiness, and Christ Jesus, is I Melt With You ever a shitty movie. From the opening barrage of onscreen text describing common male anxieties (representative samples: “I’m Losing My Hair” and “I Can’t Get Hard”) to soul-baring dialogue like “You fuck lots of women; have you ever truly loved one?”, Pellington and Porter pile on the banality. Pellington—a music-video director whose past feature films include the overly busy Arlington Road and The Mothman Prophecies—stays true to form, turning much of the two-hour movie into one long, moodily lit montage. Meanwhile, Porter drags his heroes through the muck. There’s Thomas Jane, a womanizing has-been novelist; Rob Lowe, a doctor who deals drugs on the side; Jeremy Piven, a money-manager under investigation; and Christian McKay, a man living with the guilt and shame of a past mistake. The boys ingest cocaine, booze, pot, pills, and hallucinogens. They weep over their screwed-up lives. When confronted with real loss about halfway through the film, they disappear even further into their own self-pity, to a ludicrous degree.
About the best thing I Melt With You has going for it—aside from its unflinching honesty—is the soundtrack, which is wall-to-wall ’80s alt-rock, jumping from Love And Rockets to U2 to the Pixies. But even there, when Jane wakes up with a hangover and puts on The Clash’s “Charlie Don’t Surf,” there’s no sense of what the song or the band really means to him, beyond it being emblematic of a time when he felt a lot cooler. And when Jane trashes the guys’ vacation home and scrawls “WE FORGOT” on the walls, it’s not really anything specific he’s raging about. He’s just getting old, man. Losing his edge. The usual.