As a child of 1985 but a kid of the ’90s, I was (un?)fortunately born into a pop-culture hellscape of Americana that bled from millennium to millennium. Another one thousand years since the “start date” of recorded history, and we kick-off 2000 with No Doubt performing “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” on MTV Live. Awesome, right? Or to be expected? Joel Potrykus’ beyond uber slacker follow-up to his klepto-#occupyeverything Buzzard is called Relaxer, and it’s a movie that practically called out to me upon first learning of it. I was never an actual ‘90s grunge punk or anything, but I certainly wanted to be. With Relaxer, I see the extreme reality of that idea, of being in that awkwardly birthed-in phase of human existence, and of the pressure and stress it levies on its youth, either accepted or unaccepted – no matter.
Abbie (or Abner) is played by Joshua Burge, who previously starred in Potrykus’ Buzzard as the anti-hero-ish figure of self-entitlement. Here, he’s barely a man, living in his own filth, clothed only in underwear, stationed solely on hir brother Cam’s couch. Relaxer kind of continues the Buzzard theme of men just merely occupying space, but this time without the crutch of being set during or after #OWS (Occupy Wall Street). In the movie, Abbie is a homeless/hopeless video game obsessive, living off of everyone’s scraps and maybe good graces (if he can find them). He would be self-entitled if only he had a clue about the outside world. Instead, he survives on the strength of his will to humiliate himself for his brother’s amusement, which in turn he takes too seriously.
Cam is played by David Dastmalchian, who plays a supporting friend in the Ant-Man movies. Here he’s the toxic bully sibling of Abbie’s, videotaping his brother’s many faults and failures, as evidence perhaps of his superiority over him. Months before the new year and the looming Y2K, Cam gives Abbie a challenge to stay on the couch, beat a hard to reach Pac-Man level, and do so for as long as it takes. Abbie is left alone mostly, with occasional visits from friends, antagonists, and Shasta McNasty wannabes. He’s so powerless, it’s unbelievably pathetic. That is until he puts on his 3D sunglasses…
Burge looks so much like Buster Keaton, it’s uncanny. However, the only slapstick on screen is that of body horror and absolute grotesqueness. Vomit, sour milk, fluids of all kinds (from Cherry Cola to sewage), all at the service of completing something in life. A goal. It’s endearing, hilarious, and disgusting all at once, before a whiff of a finale that’s bold and cosmic. Relaxer will, for me, rank highly this year, and or good reason. It takes then into now, where we’re at from where we were, and does so for laughs and chills. For the oddballs and the obsessives, for the toxicity between loved-ones, for the end of the world, for maturity.
What have we learned in the 2000s? I don’t know. To get off the couch? And what then?
RATING: 5 / 5
Relaxer is currently screening in limited release. To bring it to New Orleans, contact one of our local theaters and request a booking!