"Why don't you have a woman, Rich? I mean, I know you have women, but, like, the woman?"
Why do I need the woman? Why?"
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"You know, you know: to tame you. To train you."
"I'm trained. I'm housetrained. Untamed, maybe...but I don't piss on the carpets."
"It's okay...to let a girl love you."
"Who wants this, hmmm? My mother? She's...::waves hand::"
"You fuck lots of women; have you ever truly loved one?"
"I love 'em all. Can't love 'em all if you only love one!"
"If that's true, that's interesting."
"Yeah, well, you wanna know what I think, Timothy? When they really get to see me, I don't like what they see."
"You make sure of that."
Just about every last one of the extras on I Melt With You makes it a point to emphasize how polarizing a movie this is. The goal of this vivisection of the middle-aged male psyche, director Mark Pellington says, is to coax an intense reaction from the audience. You may strongly identify with I Melt With You or you might storm out of the theater in disgust, but it sure as hell is going to get more out of you than an indifferent shrug. He acknowledges that a film this unconventional isn't going to be for all tastes and that, in all likelihood, more people will viscerally dislike it than not. I have no doubt that this is the case because I can't think of the last movie I fucking hated as much as I Melt With You. Just...pure revulsion and disgust on every possible level. I cannot relate to the crises of these self-absorbed, self-destructive cowards. Its central characters are so repugnant and so thoroughly unlikeable that their eventual self-immolation is almost joyous. I've been writing movie reviews for more than twelve years now, and I'm struggling to think if I've ever been happier to see a set of end credits finally rear their head than I was at the end of I Melt With You. It comes as little surprise that this meandering, aggressively pretentious, and self-indulgent failed experiment was perched atop so many critics' Worst Movies of 2011 lists.
I Melt With You is, at its core, about the gulf separating the men these four friends thought they'd be and the failures they instead have become. Ron (Jeremy Piven) is a wealthy family man whose career on Wall Street is on the verge of a disastrous collapse. Richard (Thomas Jane) was once a promising novelist whose career never went anywhere and has since settled into a life teaching high school English or something. (Yet he somehow has the money to impulsively buy a Porsche he plans on wrecking before the weekend's out? I don't know.) Jonathan (Rob Lowe) has not only lost his family to divorce, but even his dignity is becoming an increasingly faded memory as his
practice revolves around prescribing needlessly heavy drugs to bored, rich housewives. Tim (Christian McKay) -- the quiet, solemn, thoughtful one in the group -- is reeling from the most profound grief and guilt imaginable. The point of this reunion isn't to wallow in misery, though; it's to relive their glory days in college. That means cranking up the stereo, guzzling gallons of liquor, gobbling down fistfuls of pills, and snorting mountains of coke. They've deluded themselves into thinking they're remembering the past, though instead they're trying to resist acknowledging the present. This year, though, their demons won't stay bottled up. As the four of them are consumed by the mistakes they've made over the past quarter-century, a pact from their college days resurfaces and threatens to put a definitive end to it all.
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"Let me see your heart", says Raven (Sasha Grey) as she pulls off her top. "You...you look just like my sister, Joan." Raven smiles and begins to embrace Tim. "You should ask her to come over", she replies. "I can judge for myself." "It's...impossible. She's dead. She's gone." "How'd she die?", asks the lithe, androgynous figure behind Tim on the bed as he starts to tweak the bloated, middle-aged man's nipple. "You can tell me." "I killed her, " stammers Tim. "I killed her. I killed my boyfriend. I killed...I killed them in a car." "This place we live...this place is a state. A stop on the way. True nirvana only happens when you die. They were lucky. Death is something to attain. Do you see them alive when you close your eyes to go to sleep? Let me be her." Then, writhing atop this crying, grieving shell of a man, Raven -- some kind of angel of death -- goes fullbore into a threesome. So, yeah: fuck this movie. Fuck that agonizingly overwritten pretentiousness. Fuck its lack of anything meaningful or worthwhile to say. Fuck its characters' unilateral retreat from the missteps they've made throughout their empty, wasted lives. Fuck its quippy story about stabbing crabs off a half-shaven, half-torched ballsack with an icepick. Fuck Thomas Jane wrapping himself in a blanket and making screechy velociraptor sounds. Fuck snorting coke while tearing across a bunch of dunes at Big Sur in a shiny, new Porsche. Fuck their insecurities, their hangups, and their disillusionment. Fuck the
interminable, endlessly repetitive scenes of them doing lines and scarfing down barrel drums of pills. Fuck their condescension towards the college-age kids -- basically younger versions of themselves when the future held nothing but promise -- during another interchangeable night of debauchery. Fuck their moping. Fuck their friendship. Fuck the leaden, meandering pace. Fuck their pointless, bullshit pact that's wholly devoid of any substance. Fuck the tragedies that spiral out of this weekend. Fuck the surreally ridiculous climax. Fuck damn near everything about I Melt With You.
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I am in awe of its '80s college radio soundtrack. I am, at least to a point, impressed by how raw and exposed the performances by its four central characters can be. For a run-and-gun movie that was shot without the benefit of storyboards or even a shotlist, there are some absolutely breathtaking visuals. I respect that Mark Pellington has made such an unconventional movie that doesn't have the slightest interest in charming viewers over to its side. It's defiantly, fiercely repulsive. As someone who devotes just about every waking moment to watching and analyzing film, there is very much a part of me that admires how visceral an emotional response I Melt With You managed to provoke. I'm subjected to so much bland, formulaic schlock as part of this reviewing gig that I have less and less patience for movies that safely straddle the middle, saying the same thing in the same way as tens of thousands of other films before it. For better or worse, I Melt With You certainly isn't a movie I shrugged off and would be a distant memory twenty minutes later. No, instead I'm struggling to think of the last time I've come across a movie that I loathed on every level anywhere near as much as I do with I Melt With You. Even sitting here at my keyboard all these hours later, my fingers are still trembling with rage and disgust at the thought of it. I sincerely can't write anymore. I have to walk away from this now. Skip It.
Rather than lug around large, unwieldy digital camera rigs, I Melt With You was shot almost entirely with tiny little DSLR cameras. The quality is described in the extras as falling somewhere in the middle between 16mm and 35mm, though I think I'd go lower than that. The look of I Melt With You is all over the place. At its worst, which is admittedly fairly rare, it looks like an upconverted DVD. Even at its best, though, the photography is quite a bit softer than average for a movie that's just now making its way out of theaters. It's made clear elsewhere throughout the disc that I Melt With You would be an altogether different movie if it had been shot with more traditional gear, and this is just the trade-off, but visually dazzling high definition eye-candy it's not. Aside from the lackluster detail, fine patterns occasionally shimmer with distortion, and that too is almost certainly a limitation of the cameras that were used. I Melt With You looks something closer to DVD-and-a-half rather than approaching the usual standards expected from a newly-minted Blu-ray disc, but it does appear to be as faithful a presentation as could reasonably be expected.
The AVC encode for the movie gets pretty much an entire layer on this BD-50 disc to itself, and the extras are spread across the second layer. I Melt With You is presented on Blu-ray at its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1.
The one thing I Melt With You inarguably does right is its '80s college radio soundtrack, featuring Pixies, The Specials, Love and Rockets, The Clash, Funkadelic, The Sex Pistols, and The Stone Roses, to rattle off just a few. The music takes full advantage of this 24-bit, six-channel DTS-HD Master Audio track, roaring from the rear channels and reinforced by a throaty low-end. These songs, as much as I adore them, blare with such ferocity that I found myself dialing down the volume considerably lower than normal to be able to deal with it. The surrounds are also used for splashes of atmospheric color, and although bass response is largely restrained outside of the music, there's a hellish low frequency rattle throughout I Melt With You's final moments. The overwritten, pretentious dialogue is largely rendered cleanly and clearly throughout, although there are a few stretches where it's overwhelmed by the music or just unable to be recorded particularly well.
There are no dubs or alternate mixes. Subtitles are offered in English (SDH) and Spanish.
I Melt With You features right at six hours of extras in all. There is quite a bit of overlap between them, though, so even its most ardent admirers may want to consider resisting the temptation to devour them all in one sitting. One other complaint I have is that a couple of the extras took me back to the main menu afterwards, but all it did was cycle through the background animation; I no longer had any menu options, requiring me to stop the disc and start all over again.
- Deleted Scenes (19 min.; HD): I Melt With You's seven deleted and extended scenes can be selected individually or played in succession. The most noteworthy of the lot are a longer, more linear introduction to each of the four friends and a subplot revolving around the woman watching Tim's home. For those who felt as if Carla Gugino was underutilized in the film proper as the town's sheriff, her character Boyde is prominently featured in several of these deleted scenes.
- Featurettes (31 min.; HD): I Melt With You's half-hour behind-the-scenes featurette is anchored by director Mark Pellington, writer Glenn Porter, and cinematographer Eric Schmidt, and it has a mildly annoying tendency to crossfade between them rather than cleanly cut. The three of them delve into what this journey into the male psyche
represents, the screenplay's evolution from an absurdist black comedy into an experimental thriller/realist drama, and the unusual and inventive cinematography that brought I Melt With You to life. A couple of key sequences are also explored at length, as are each of the central cast members. It ends, interestingly, with a fairly heated debate on the set. "HDNet: A Look at I Melt With You" (5 min.) is essentially an extended trailer with a couple of interviews tossed in for good measure. Even those conversations are excerpts from other extras on the disc, rendering this featurette completely inessential.
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- Interviews (48 min.; HD): Jeremy Piven chimes in with an enthusiastic and wildly charming interview (10 min.), touching on how the film's four characters represent parts of a greater whole, how he was originally eyeing the role of Richard rather than another money-obsessed family man, playing a drug-addled maniac despite hardly ever having touched the stuff himself, and the momentum and freedom allowed by the use of DSLR cameras. Director Mark Pellington's interview (38 min.) in a lot of ways plays like a Greatest Hits of the other extras on I Melt With You, which is perhaps ideal if you don't have the time to sit down with a two hour audio commentary. He explains the allure of making an ultra-low budget film in a contained space, the allegory that propels the story forward, the polarizing nature of the movie, another exploration into the cast and the characters they play, and the adjustments made to I Melt With You after its divisive premiere at Sundance.
- Audio Commentaries: Director Mark Pellington appears on both of I Melt With You's commentary tracks, joined on the first by actors Rob Lowe and Jeremy Piven. He speaks very frankly about the astonishingly low budget -- giving precise numbers and a fairly detailed breakdown, even -- as well as the very tight shooting schedule. Among the highlights are Piven unexpectedly pulling out a Miley Cyrus impression, Lowe being inspired by the sight of a mentally disturbed homeless man to repeatedly hit himself in the face with a cell phone, other actors mulled over for the part of Tim due to Christian McKay's visa issues, and how McKay had never even had an onscreen kiss before being drafted to have a threeway with Sasha Grey here. Despite not thinking all that much of the movie itself, I enjoyed the actors' commentary. I might have felt the same way about the more technically-oriented commentary with Pellington, writer Glenn Porter, and director of photography Eric Schmidt, but as I approached eight hours with I Melt With You in the space of a day, exhaustion had very much set in. Specific lenses used, tweaks made in the wake of the vitriolic response of a rough cut at Sundance, the joys and challenges stemming from a complete lack of prep time, a happy accident with a hard cut during a Filter song, and how heavily certain elements were restructured in the editing room are a few of the more memorable topics of discussion here.
- Still Galleries: One gallery showcases six pieces of alternate poster concepts, and the other features just shy of ninety photos snapped during production. Most of these images are reasonably high-res.
- Director's Statement: If you don't have time to sit down with one of the audio commentaries or any of the lengthy interviews elsewhere on this Blu-ray disc, Mark Pellington contributes a few pages of text about the inspiration, artistry, and allegory behind I Melt With You.
- Promotional Material (16 min.; HD): I Melt With You takes a stab at more creatively promoting itself, such as Jeremy Piven's rambling, pretentious "mood piece" (4 min.) and Thomas Jane delivering a monologue about feelings and friendship and fleeting what-the-fuck-ever to his four-day scruff in the mirror (5 min.). Uh, for a promotional piece, that teaser has some pretty significant spoilers in it, but whatever. The international trailer, meanwhile, opens with Jane marching down a high school hallway, chanting "I melt with you...I melt with you...I melt with you...motherfucker!" right at the camera which is kind of...yeah. Finally, there are both red and green band domestic trailers.
The Final Word
Mark Pellington notes a couple of times throughout the extras on this Blu-ray disc that many of his favorite films -- Straw Dogs and Cassavetes' Husbands among them-- were critically reviled but gradually became more warmly embraced in the years that followed. He suggests that the same might happen with I Melt With You, a mainstay in critics' Worst of 2011 lists, although...yeah, I kind of doubt it. A movie this polarizing -- seemingly universally disliked -- is impossible for me to recommend as a purchase sight-unseen. On the off-chance you do connect with I Melt With You, at least Pellington and company have gone to great lengths to ensure that you get your money's worth from this Blu-ray disc, piling on hours upon hours of extras. Vacant, aggressively pretentious, and repulsive on just about every conceivable level: Skip It.