Drugs make midlife crises bearable! But not really! Such is the profundity of I Melt with You, Mark Pellington’s ode to getting ripped and then, when the narcotized-denial haze wears off, wallowing in regret and self-pity. At a cliffside mansion for their annual reunion, English teacher Richard (Thomas Jane), doctor Jonathan (Rob Lowe), investment manager Ron (Jeremy Piven), and who-knows-what Tim (Christian McKay) attempt to relive their college days by snorting, popping, guzzling, and otherwise inhaling a veritable buffet of illegal substances. This instigates incessant montages of imbibing that Pellington shoots like one of his flashier music videos, awash in buzzing guitars (including cuts from, among others, the Sex Pistols, Joan Jett, and Filter), shaky camerawork, and color-coded shots of sky, sea, squirting alcoholic beverage-enhancing limes, and frantic hands and faces. It’s an aesthetic assault notable not just for its belligerence, but also for its tedious excess. Since next to nothing happens during the film’s first half, this barrage grows wearisome almost as soon as it begins, especially considering that Glenn Porter’s script otherwise does little to break up this monotony other than have sullen Tim be the voice of philosophical introspection, asking his buddies about happiness, disappointment, and whether their lives turned out as they’d planned in a way that foreshadows the faux-gravity to come.
And come it does, via telegraphed revelations that these four miserable cretins haven’t lived up to their respective aspirations: Richard hasn’t achieved his authorial dreams, Jonathan pens prescriptions for cash, Ron is under investigation by the SEC, and Tim is wracked with guilt over his role in his sister and boyfriend’s deaths. Given the ugliness of their revelry, which Pellington strives to depict as male-camaraderie-euphoric through low camera angles and cinematographic thrashing about, and in light of their own responsibility for their underlying despair, I Melt with You flounders badly—and, at 116 minutes, with great, unwarranted extravagance—at eliciting even the faintest trace of interest in its proceedings. That holds true even once the film divulges its more serious-minded concerns, via a tragedy regarding a ludicrous 25-year-old blood pact that leads to not just an egregious amount of haggard-faced, woe-is-me overacting from the cast (constantly in blood-red-eyed close-ups), but phony crime story suspense involving the mounting suspicions of a local cop (Carla Gugino, seemingly transplanted in from another movie). Ultimately, the only thing more narcissistically indulgent than the film’s repugnant protagonists is Pellington’s iPod-scored, visually flashy, thoroughly hollow directorial celebration of them.