Stop me if you've heard this one: Ari Gold, Sodapop Curtis, the guy from "The Mist" and Orson Welles walk into a bar... and everyone in the bar feels like killing themselves. Heck, just looking at the cast list is depressing enough, because Jeremy Piven's show is over, Rob Lowe hasn't been noticed in anything in years, Thomas... June, or whoever he is probably should have been big by now, and Christian McKay's growing a beard and looking like he's putting on a few, which only reminds us of poor ol' Orson Welles eating himself to death. Well, maybe it's not all a bad thing, because as we can see, McKay's still convincing as Welles, and he's not going to break from that reputation of being Welles any time so soon, so we may as well fire up the biopic while we have the chance, because as this film taught us, we only have so much time in life and youth... before bad stuff that's not likely to happen to you starts biting us in the rump. Okay, let's not beat around the bush; the only thing that this film teaches us is that Orson Welles knows how to party and that Rob Lowe is still alive. Man, that guy's gotta be, like, 94 or something, and he's still handsome, whereas Jeremy Piven will look like a younger Jason Lee in "The Goods", and then turn around to look like "he's" the one who's about to play old Orson Welles. How many times do I have to mention Orson Welles before you guys actually figure out who the heck Christian McKay is? I don't know, but you probably have a better chance of hearing about "Me and Orson Welles" than hearing a good review of this film, so I guess it seems appropriate that I should give this film a good review, seeing as no one has heard of me; but if you have, then you definately know how no film escapes criticism from me, and let me tell you, this film is most certainly no exception, because there's plenty wrong with this mess.
Seeing as this is an independent film, it should go without saying that things get slow and overdrawn, but when it's not that, it's a touch too intense. By that, I mean that the film is rather overstylized, featuring too much music - some of which being inappropriate for the scenario - and sometimes overly flashy cinematography. Sure, the cinematography is handsome, but it's all part of the hyperstylizing that makes much of the film rather hollow. It doesn't help that much of the writing is pretty generic, particularly when it comes to the characters. Our "Friends-From-Their-Youth" team of leads are lifted straight out of chapter 29 of "The Big Book of Character Cliches", with McKay being pretty much a combination of all kinds of cliches: smart, nice, gay and atheist (Some redneck somewhere is saying "Dat dur's conterdictionary!"), and everyone else being one line from the book, such as the regular dad - played here by Piven -, the quiet guy going through some kind of pain - played here by Lowe - and, of course, the party dude that's still keeping the party going no matter what his age - played here by Jane -; and with these traditional characters come their tradition storyline, from their development - what little there is -, to their comeuppance, only this time, we're bashed over the head with some crazy stuff that's totally unexpected, because you wouldn't expect anyone but "Lifetime" to pull something this manipulative. No, it's not that bad, but the film doesn't so much pull at your heartstrings, as much as it pokes at them, poking and poking until you're left down in the dumps by this extreme manipulation; but it's understandable why the film would push too hard, because you have to put some work into making these druged-out, self-indulgent jerky leads compelling. Too bad someone beat them to the punch, because the manipulation would have gotten out investment in the leads, if the leads weren't already compelling, because the performers behind them are so strong and charismatic; or maybe it's just the music that's so charming.
Although the soundtrack's prominence gets to be overwhelming, it's still a pretty good soundtrack, really fitting the party tone when it's going, and with neat sound design tricks complementing the music, you can expect one heck of an fast-pace simulation of the party experience. We're led through it all by our performers, who carry the more chipper moments of the film with charm and strong chemistry. However, when the party dies down, bleakness rises, and although that bleakness is a bit too much of a party pooper, considering that it's much too manipulative, the performers play it with genuineness. Christian McKay oozes quiet presence, being subtley charming, but when things go down, he's the first man to play up the weight of the situation, and the others soon follow. McKay further shows us his great acting abilities, but Thomas Jane, Rob Lowe and Jeremy Piven show just what they can really do, giving layered, heavily emotional performances that, when working off of each other, make the chemistry change smooth. All throughout part one of the film, you feel the happiness and comradery, but at part two, when tension rises, you feel them as they realize how little they actually know, and you're left on the edge of your seat, wondering what new and unexpected turn will be taken next, because at that point, the joy turns sower and you realize that no one is same, from themselves or each other. Now, these aren't necessarily masterful performances like I'm making them sound, but they're not suppose to be, and our leads know that, not playing over each other and giving equally solid performances that carry the film through thick and thin.
When it's all said and done, cliched characters eventually fall into unpredictable predicaments, but even then, the film could have been more inventive, because those moments of bleakness are all too melodramatic and manipulative; but no matter what highs or lows the film hits, it can always run back to its fine style - often overwhelming though, it may be -, but most of all, its performers, all of whom bring strong, layered performances and sharp chemistry that go from charming to tense, making "I Melt With You" a chiller of an ever darkening experience.
3/5 - Good