In case you haven’t noticed from the endless barrage of TV commercials touting how many Golden Globes various films have won or been nominated for – or boasting about how many more-obscure awards films have won – we’re in the middle of Academy Award season.
That means movie theaters are filled with what are supposed to be the finest films Hollywood has to offer. But what was the worst movie of 2011? Surely Big Hollywood readers, with their hatred of George Clooney and Matt Damon, can name any one of their films for that dubious honor despite the fact that their films are almost always extremely well-made despite their liberal messages.
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But surprise – there’s actually a movie so awful and filled with such vile hatred of middle-aged, suburban American life that even critics agreed it was a cinematic stink bomb.
That film is called “I Melt With You,” and it was recently picked as the worst movie of 2011 in the annual comprehensive critics’ poll conducted by the iconic liberal weekly newspaper Village Voice. While I’m often at odds with my fellow film critics over the underlying social messages Hollywood is sending out through its films, and the impact those messages have on viewers and society, this is a rare case in which we actually all agreed.
“Melt” features TV stars Jeremy Piven and Thomas Jane (well, they’re HBO stars at least) and longtime pretty boy movie-turned-TV star Rob Lowe (who, as a professed conservative family man, should have known better – wait til you hear what this movie is about!). It sill wasn’t able to land a big studio to release it. Instead, it crawled through a couple of LA and New York movie theaters en route to a thankfully quick box office death and has been infecting TV screens nationwide as a video on demand movie instead.
Seriously, after watching this movie, you’ll feel like scrubbing your TV set with Lysol. Name any wrongdoing or illicit behavior that a human being is capable of, and these guys do it. The almost-nonexistent storyline takes a full hour to have any true narrative drive, but basically, it follows four supposedly average American middle-aged males – high school writing teacher Richard (Jane), a doctor named Jonathan (Lowe) whose entire practice has come to revolve around selling prescription drugs illegally, a financier named Ron (Piven) who is about to be arrested and their homosexual friend Tim (Christian McKay) who is mourning his unexplained part in the death of his lover five years before.
Spoilers ahead …
The four men signed a mysterious pact as a blood oath while they were in college 25 years before. And as they engage in a numbing array of drugs, alcohol and sexual behavior throughout the film’s pointlessly indulgent first hour, glimmers of their inner hopelessness seep through and it briefly appears that the film might wind up exploring how off-track they are in every way.
Instead, the film winds up completely romanticizing their behavior, even as the homosexual abruptly commits suicide by hanging himself in the bathroom after a sexual threesome, the financier asks the writer to smother him to death with a pillow, the doctor commits suicide by intentional drug overdose and the writer finally dives off a cliff into the ocean to choose death over capture by a policewoman. This final suicide leads to the last-moment revelation that the oath entailed that the men would agree to “die as one” if any one of them ever decided life wasn’t fun enough anymore.
The core idea behind it all is that the definition of a “fun” life is to live like an animal and indulge every urge that hits your body. Having to live with any sense of responsibility or restraint, whether through jobs or marriage, means that you’ve sold out and it’s better to just die already – even if, like Lowe’s character, you have a young son who is going to be left without a father.
In case I haven’t convinced you yet of just how rancid this movie is, I’d like to share with you the review I did of this film for the Christian movie-review site Movieguide.org. For that site – which I recommend to any film fan who wants to know in advance if they’ll be offended or not by a movie – critics are asked to rate a film on both an artistic level of one to four stars, and a morality/message level of +1 to +4 for positive films and -1 to -4 for films with negative content.
We also spell out how much profanity and obscenities are in a film, as well as sex, nudity, violence, drinking and drug use plus miscellaneous immoral behavior like lying and deception. We also take note of a film’s political stance if it has one, pointing out if it’s conservative or liberal and why – such as is it pro- or anti-capitalist, or espousing a pro-life or a pro-abortion viewpoint?
Yet I’m proud to say that the site is intellectually honest, in that even if a film gets rated -4 for “abhorrent” content, it can still get a +4 for being extremely well-made and entertaining on an artistic level. (For example, a movie like Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed” was rated -3 (extreme caution, even for adults, on a moral level) but also received four stars for its quality.
So, how badly did I have to spell out the content of “I Melt With You”? My content assessment took up 752 words. This entire essay, prior to this paragraph, was nearly 900 words. Yep, as I said, this film had it all: copious sex, drugs, alcohol, swearing (more than 200 cuss words!), the guys running naked into the ocean, killing each other in the name of brotherly love, and just generally showing a hateful, piggish attitude towards all of mankind but especially towards women.
Perhaps I should have expected as much from director Mark Pellington, who previously directed the similarly dark and anti-suburban “Arlington Road,” in which Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack are a “perfect” patriotic suburban couple who turn out to be murderous right-wing zealots. I suppose the one positive sign gleaned from “Melt” being far more over the edge of sanity is that it didn’t get the major-studio theatrical release that “Arlington” did, and will be even more forgotten than that film, which only made about $20 million at the box office before fading into obscurity. By comparison, “Melt” made a paltry $6,361 during its theatrical run.
Despite its normally ace cast of leads, who have all delivered solid work in the past, this is one film that is a must to avoid for anyone, literally anyone, as its lead characters will undoubtedly be melting together for an eternity in Hell.
So take heart in the fact that big Hollywood studios actually found a Sundance movie so vile themselves that they refused to release it. And be warned that as bad as you make think some major releases are, there’s always something out there that’s even worse.