“The Big Chill” this is not: Four friends meet for their annual reunion, a debauched blowout fueled by booze and drugs and far too many man-hugs.
This year, however, the guys are 44 years old, and the weight of disappointment and compromise is heavy. Enter, if you dare, the self-important world of “I Melt With You,” a last tango scored for quartet.
Like a Gen-X take on the drunken blowhards from John Cassavetes’ “Husbands,” the movie seems to find these four bad boys more intriguing than they really are, or so it seemed to my sober eyes.
You can see the appeal for actors: The guys reel through days of misbehavior, with plenty of drunk scenes and soul-searching. The most desperately boisterous of the group is Richard (Thomas Jane), a once-promising writer now teaching English and staying commitment-free.
He mocks the securely married Ron (Jeremy Piven), but Ron’s got his own secret problems, and Jonathan (Rob Lowe) is a doctor who’s been selling pills and also taking them. The other friend, Tim (Christian McKay, who played Orson Welles in “Me and Orson Welles”) lost his longtime partner five years earlier and is still mired in grief.
Except for their rampant abuse of many different substances, these dudes have little in common. We take it on faith that they’ve been friends since college, and that their week in a rented home in Big Sur is a safety valve for their unhappy lives.
These actors are capable enough of communicating their angst, but the camaraderie is less credible. Director Mark Pellington (“The Mothman Prophecies”) and screenwriter Glenn Porter might very well have obnoxious pals like this, but all the joshing and crying and masculine embracing (did I mention the man-hugs?) feels like an idea of what old friends must be like, rather than recognizable behavior.
To give the stamp of supposed authenticity to the decadence, the cast includes porn star Sasha Grey, who hasn’t improved much since her “legit” debut in “The Girlfriend Experience.”
Carla Gugino is utterly wasted as a local law-enforcement official, a role as dull as that description sounds.
Accompanying the descent into purgatory is a soundtrack of ’80s (but also ’70s) songs. Tracks by the Sex Pistols and The Clash are on the nose, although the four friends would have been more like children than college students when those songs were released.
A clip of John Lydon (aka the Pistols’ Johnny Rotten), included without explanation, caps this pretentious wallow.
“I Melt With You” (1 star)
Four old college friends, now 44 and disappointed in their lives, meet for their annual blowout of booze and pills. Actors such as Thomas Jane and Jeremy Piven are capable of bringing the angst, but the camaraderie feels forced and the approach pretentious.
Rated: R, for language, nudity, subject matter