I Melt With You: 2011 AFI Film Fest

By November 17, 2011AFI Film Festival

Gorgeous photography and an incredible soundtrack highlight director Mark Pellington’s latest film, I Melt With You, an excellent, darkly comic ode to men grappling poorly with adulthood. 

During the Q&A after the screening at the Egyptian Theater, Pellington described the film best, so I’ll let him summarize it for you: “It’s an allegory for male failure.” How’s that for an uplifting night out with the missus? As depressing as that sounds, I Melt With You isn’t, especially not for the first half, which finds college best friends Richard (Thomas Jane), Ron (Jeremy Piven), Jonathan (Rob Lowe), and Tim (Christian McKay), reuniting at a mansion in Big Sur to celebrate Tim’s birthday and party hard in remembrance of their youth. But this is not The Big Chill 2k11. This is something far different, far darker, and way funnier.

To talk about this movie is really to talk about the performances. And they’re all stellar, which makes sense considering the entire cast did the movie for free – they clearly had to have a strong draw to the material to want to shoot it pro bono. But of them all, I was most impressed by Lowe. He’s has a career resurgence lately with his hilarious turn on Parks and Recreation, but I’d never seen him give so moving a performance as he does here as the ethically questionable physician who provides the copious amounts of prescription drugs for the week-long fiesta and struggles with not having custody of his son. He made the movie, for me.

I was afraid Piven was going to simply slip back into Ari Gold-mode for his portrayal of Ron, the rich friend of the group, but he surprisingly does something different here. Jane continues to impress, solid in everything he does, and McKay balances out the bursts of testosterone with the openly emotional core of the film. But, Lowe elevates everything that extra notch from excellent to memorable. I give them all major props, too, for playing such believable druggies. There’s nothing worse than watching an actor botch an inebriation scene, and if that had happened here, that would’ve been the entire movie. Their performances combined with the hand-held camera style makes I Melt With You feel honest and real, causing you to instantly connect with this motley crew, making it all the more powerful when it hits the emotional dénouement. 

The other main characters whom should be listed under the cast list, though, are The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Pixies, and every other incredible artist on the soundtrack. Pellington made a name for himself directing some of the best music videos of the era, most famously the classic for Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy,” and it’s clear he still retains that uncanny ability to match stunning imagery with moving music. Throw in punk rock soaking the score, coupled with the incredible footage shot entirely on the Canon 5D, all in service of a story not told all that often – a chick flick for mid-40s men – and you have a rebellious little flick that could, which is most certainly not for every moviegoer. But for those at whom it’s aimed, I Melt With You strikes all the right chords.