Monday, February 27, 2012

'I Melt With You'

Of all the unwatched For Your Consideration screeners I still have sitting by my TV, why did I decide to watch Mark Pellington's I Melt With You? Perversely, as with my dedication to watching the entirety of crappy horror series, it's mainly because the reviews were so savage, and it seemed like a movie that could be fun to write about. I did hold out a little hope that I'd end up with the contrarian opinion, that I'd love Pellington's take on the tortured angst of middle-aged upper-middle-class white guys, but sadly that was not to be. I Melt With You is easily one of the worst movies of 2011 and probably one of the worst movies I've ever seen, a stunningly misguided mess of self-important whining. It's sort of amazing how clueless it is about its own pretentiousness, which increases exponentially as the movie goes on.

Rarely has so much douchebaggery been concentrated in one movie. Pellington loses sympathy for his already unsympathetic characters pretty much right away by preceding the title card with a bunch of whiny concerns about male aging (losing hair, having trouble getting it up, etc.) that are almost exclusively petty nonsense. Just because these guys are well-off and attractive and privileged doesn't mean they can't be unhappy or unfulfilled, but Pellington and co-writer Glenn Porter depict their four main characters as such insufferable narcissists that it's impossible to feel even an ounce of pity for them. The quartet of college friends (played by Thomas Jane, Rob Lowe, Jeremy Piven and Christian McKay), now 44, get together at a lavish beach house for their annual reunion, and they waste no time in ingesting every illicit substance they can get their hands on (mostly courtesy of Lowe's character, a doctor with a very liberal prescription policy). When they're not blissfully high, they're ponderously angsty, urgently querying each other about what happened to their misspent (and objectively totally successful) lives.

It's bad enough to witness this kind of narcissistic navel-gazing without a hint of self-deprecating humor, but Pellington makes it worse by shooting everything with a hyperactive visual style no doubt derived from his years directing music videos. It adds another layer of superficial shine to what is already a completely shallow endeavor. Pellington also fills the movie with wall-to-wall music, mostly alt-rock classics from the '80s, which conjures up a feeling of nostalgia without taking that anywhere or giving it any meaning. The music doesn't represent anything about the characters or their lives; it's just there to allow the audience to fill in their own feelings where the movie is unable to create them.

And then halfway through, somehow things get even worse. (Spoiler alert, I guess, although this movie deserves to be spoiled.) Given how many drugs they were taking and how depressed they seemed, I was rooting for these assholes to overdose and/or commit suicide, even if that would only make the survivors more angsty. So I was pretty pleased when McKay's tortured character, who engages in the world's most depressing threesome at his moment of greatest despair, hanged himself in the shower. But I was not prepared for what comes later, as the movie turns into a sort of psychological thriller, with the surviving characters determined to live out a ridiculous suicide pact they signed back in college, and a local cop (Carla Gugino) tracking their suspicious behavior. Contemplating suicide only makes these guys more unbearably smug about the preciousness of their dreams and emotions, and Pellington treats the increasingly ludicrous premise as an incredibly profound meditation on the meaning of life. By the time the last of the group was running toward a cliff as Gugino's befuddled sheriff's deputy was chasing him, trying to convince him to live, I couldn't wait for him to jump.

Available on DVD February 28.

No comments: