Not since Leaving Las Vegas has a film about death-by-consumption hit so hard. Mark Pellington’s I Melt With You mimics the debauchery of Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas and The Hangover so it’s not for the faint of heart. There is vomiting. There are massive amounts of pills and booze, foul sexual jokes and enough cocaine to make Charlie Sheen blush. But behind the suitcases of numbing agents, I Melt With You is a poignant study of what it means to be a man in his forties, looking at his life through the naive eyes of his college self. Each of the main players give brilliant performances in this vivid avalanche of despair, loyalty, friendship, and hopelessness.

The Players:

The Plot:

Four college friends reunite for a vacation in Big Sur. The trip takes a dark turn after they discover a pact they made over two decades ago that forces them to take stock of their lives and face their failures.

The Good:

  • The Brotherhood: I Melt With You works because the cast is so believable as a tight posse that would do anything and everything for each other. Their loyalty is inspirational – deeply co-dependent and dysfunctional – but inspirational nonetheless. But don’t expect a slap-stick bromance. Theirs is a friendship that thrives on the fractured souls of its members. If one of them is lost, chaos will and does ensue. The depth of their friendship is also a testament to writer Porter and director Pellington who say and show little about the characters’ lives before this ill-conceived adventure. While the vacation is mostly devoted to re-hashing the past, the film is very much focused on the present, offering brief clues into the characters’ identities in their lives outside of the vacation.
  • The Lord of the Flies: I like films that explore humans at their most basic and depraved. I Melt With You, set in the naturally exquisite Big Sur, takes Richard (Pane), Jonathon (Lowe), Ron (Piven), and Tim (McKay) to the lowest possible place. They shed themselves at the door and get primal. Of course, you have to accept that going primal in this context means ingesting obscene amounts of drugs, but for this film, that is their means of letting the demons out. This is their island. There’s even a Jesus allegory.   
  • The Soundtrack: Nearly without exception, the film pulls songs from the youth of its main characters. Its fitting nostalgia for this reclaim-our-college-years getaway. The songs help send the audience back to the idealist days when the foursome were still full of hope and vigor.

The Bad:

  • The Lady Cop: No film is perfect and this one is no exception. The beautiful Carla Gugino character, Laura, feels like she was written in just so the film could have a female perspective — which it doesn’t need. She snoops around the vacation house with no real purpose other than observing that the four guys are a bit rough around the edges. What she does observe wouldn’t create the type of side-eyed curiosity she devotes to the house where they are staying. In fact, if she were paying attention she would have seen multiple clues to the dark goings on inside. Instead, she checks license plates and leaves. A little additional exposition giving her a reason to be so nosy at the beginning of the film could’ve cleaned up this problem.


I Melt With You is no light film. It might take a night of watching old episodes of “Sesame Street” to set your head straight but the experience is well worth it. Pellington, Porter, and the cast deliver a thought provoking piece that speaks to an obsession with youth, the beauty and complications of friendship, and the choice to face or run from becoming a man.

Rating: 8.5/10

See I Melt With You in theaters on December 9, 2011. Watch I Melt With You on demand now.

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