Sunday, June 23, 2013

Overlooked Film of the Week- "I Melt With You" (2011)

Overlooked Film of the Week- #10

Can a movie be neither good nor bad nor mediocre?

It's safe to say that I have had quite the relationship with "I Melt With You."

On one level, the film is laughably bad. Each of the four men we meet are harboring some kind of secret. Kind of a friendship pact they made in college. When the audience finally realizes what that pact actually is, you hope you misheard it all. Its such a wacky and borderline disturbing reveal that I can hardly fathom how this movie got greenlit. The film's first half is much stronger than its second, as the film begins to tilt towards a incoherent mess, and that big reveal is so cheesy that it makes me laugh. The four friends we meet in this film are not people we root for in the movies, which makes it hard for the audience go along with them and their choices.

On a second level, the acting is wonderful. You can't go wrong with Thomas Jane, Rob Lowe, Christian McKay (very underrated by the way) and Jeremy Piven headlining a movie. You just can't. Plus, with Carla Gugino in the mix as well, you've got a great list of actors. This cast really drives this thing, they make this film better than it needs to be. Their performances elevate the material and make it all somehow matter. That's not say that the direction is bad. Mark Pellington is a savage, in-your-face director. It shows with power in this movie. With the direction and performances I could sort of buy into some of the absurdities of the movie.

But let's back up a bit. The film centers around four lifelong college buddies. Their names are Jonathon (Rob Lowe), Richard (Thomas Jane), Ron (Jeremy Piven), and Tim (Christian McKay). Once a year for Tim's birthday, the friends reunite at the Big Sur. They tell stories about former college glories, take lots of drugs, drink lots of alcohol and hit women much too young for them. Each man is suffering from troubles in their lives. Despite, these troubles that haunt each man, one wonders how men in their 40's can party like the men do in this film. Is director Mark Pellington trying to be cool and stylish, or are these men so far brain-dead from their life struggles that they feel they have no other option? It's tough to really get a firm grasp on the answer.

Jonathon is an accomplished doctor, but his divorce has really affected him. He has a young son that identifies with his new daddy and that tears Jonathon apart. Richard was a published author, but several years of writers block now has him teaching high school English. Ron is a successful stockbroker, but is getting in trouble for embezzlement. Then there's Tim, who is an open bisexual. He had a relationship with a man and a woman at the same time, until he caused a car crash that killed both of them. All of these men are very troubled, but are these troubles enough to warrant long nights of drugs, alcohol and acting like complete fools? Its very weird and puzzling, yet so well acted and well directed that it is hard for me to decide if I like this all or not.

The actors bring a lot to the table, and we really feel for the men and their struggle. Even if they do spend their nights partying really hard. Sure, it would be embarrassing to witness actual 40 year old's partaking in such behavior. All of these men have been suffering for a long time, and the performances of the actors I feel really flesh that out. Watching this movie twice, I feel like I have known these men a long time. That feeling is very hard to capture on film so I give the actors credit.

In about the middle of the movie, one of the men commits suicide. Then the audience learns about a pact these friends made in their senior year of college. We don't learn the real description of the pact until the very end of the movie, just whispers of it throughout the film. This is when the film starts to spiral out of control. So much so that I felt there wasn't any merit to end the film with. The pact comes off so silly that it felt like a completely different movie. The characters start making such strange decisions that I almost wanted to turn it off on my first viewing. On my second viewing, I realizes an incredible truth.

There is so much good in this movie that I feel like I should be swooning. Even in the miserable second half of the movie, there is good there. There was bad in the first half and that bad gets more fleshed out in the second half of the movie. The bad is so bad that I feel like I want to vomit. But somehow, I don't feel the film is mediocre. I have always felt that a movie can be more than just good or bad. There are uneven movies that get released every year. In a culture that is very much possesses a  "Love it or hate it" attitude, I find that something doesn't have to be one of the polar opposites. There can be good and bad that can equal a mediocre picture. But with "I Melt With You," its hard for me to say that too. I remember the first time I saw Kevin Smith's "Red State," I felt I was at the same crossroads. However, after watching it three times I found out that the movie was indeed mediocre. Will I feel the same after watching "I Melt With You" more?

I encourage you all to check out "I Melt With You" precisely for this point. I am in dire need of a second opinion. Can a movie be so good yet so bad at the same time that it is not mediocre? Do I need to watch this film more to make a better decision? Or am I just a crazy person who needs a shrink? Am I the only one that has had a cinematic experience like this or does somebody out there know what I am talking about? All I know right now, is that "I Melt With You" is an interesting failure, if I can even call it a failure. It is definitely something I will watch and debate personally for a little while longer.

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