Life is good for Thomas Jane -- or it should be anyway. The 42-year-old actor has a flourishing TV career starring as a recession-era gigolo on HBO's "Hung" and has a handful of feature films on the way. But despite all his success, the former punk rocker still has a few bones to pick with society.
"There's no socially-acceptable middle age," Jane raged in a recent chat with The Huffington Post. "We have to lie about our age to get jobs, we have to dress the way we did in our 20s, with blue jeans and a t-shirt and f*cking tennis shoes. Really? I'm 40 years old and still wearing the same goddamn uniform that I wore in my 20s? So what's the new uniform -- a suit? Well, okay, everyone wears a f*cking suit. With that, you're just a suit, you're a zombie, there's no self-expression. There's no individuality within that. So it's either blend in and become a zombie, or revert to your 20s. We got nothing."
Before you write off Jane as just another 40-something man with a midlife crises, consider that his words are at least partly inspired by his new film "I Melt With You." Directed by Mark Pellington, the movie follows four high school buddies -- a depressed high-school teacher (Jane), a Wall Street shark (Jeremy Piven), a pill-pushing doctor (Rob Lowe) and a self-hating gay man (Christian McKay) -- on a trip to Big Sur for a yearly hedonistic escape that devolves into a painful reckoning.
Shot in a style reminiscent of Pellington's music videos for artists such as Pearl Jam, U2 and Bruce Springsteen, "I Melt With You" assaults the senses of the viewer -- and the nasal canals of its protagonists. But beneath all the cocaine and blaring music is a story about how men become alienated and consumed by regret as they grow older. It's a story that Jane, for one, can relate to.
"I think when you get into your 40s, you run into all this kind of crazy shit, where you're like, 'Woah, what? Wait a second, what happened? You mean I'm no longer viable, I'm no longer vital?'" said the actor, who prides himself on being edgier than most of Hollywood. "But in my 40s, I'm as sharp as I've ever been, I'm wiser than I've ever been, I'm physically in great health -- but now I'm being passed over because I'm in my f*cking 40s, by society as a whole? I'm being passed over and becoming irrelevant. You turn on the computer or you turn on the TV, all the problems are about being in your 20s and 30s. You say, 'Well, it's not sexy? Bullshit. It's as sexy as you want to make it.'"
How exactly Jane has been passed over is unclear, both in real life and on the screen. His character, a struggling author, seems to need an attitude adjustment, not affirmative action. And his friends are even more self-defeating: Lowe's doctor is the kind of quack who trades painkillers for bribes, and Piven's character is a Madoff-like con man. Still, they have redeeming qualities. At one point in the movie, Piven's character stares into the mirror and, sounding a bit like Ari Gold, tells himself, "At least I'm a good father, and faithful to my wife."
Talking to The Huffington Post, Piven likened the experience of playing the role to having "an emotional root canal." And yet, he added, "I knew that I needed to go and do this. It's just a feeling that you have. A buddy of mine is doing a documentary on decisions and they're not based on a ton of logic. It's mostly how you relate to them emotionally. I just knew in my soul that I have to go do this -- and it's going to be painful."
In an age of skyrocketing unemployment, Tea Parties and Occupy encampments, audiences may find it equally painful to try to sympathize with the wealthy, upper-middle-class white men of "I Melt With You." To their credit, however, the actors settled for nothing less than cutting themselves open and exposing the ugly truth.