March 19, 2019 Relaxer (Movie Review)
Set to arrive in select theaters on Friday, March 22nd through Oscilloscope Laboratories, brace yourself for the dark fantasy known as Relaxer.
Written and directed by Joel Potrykus (Buzzard 2014, The Alchemist Cookbook 2016) Relaxer follows the plight of a man who is determined to finally make something of himself and survive…in a living room. Together, Abbie (Joshua Burge: The Revenant 2015, 20th Century Women 2016) and his brother Cam (David Dastmalchain: Gotham 2014, Ant-Man 2015), two very different doomsday survivalists, preparing for the dreaded Y2K doomsday.
Cam is more die hard and strict about surviving the collapse of the world once the year 2000 hits and the computers cannot compute all of the zeros. Abbie has never completed anything he has ever started in his life. He has a string of failed challenges to cement his place in history that he simply could not see to the end. In the summer of 1999, Cam issues Abbie the ultimate challenge. Successfully get to and beat the unbeatable 256 level of Pac Man. Oh and while he is doing the challenge he cannot get up off the couch. Abbie succumbs to his brother’s bullying and accepts; determined that this will be the thing that he does not quit. He has until New Years to complete his mission.
A simply impossible challenge quickly turns into a fight for survival. Cam leaves Abbie without accessible food or drink. Even visits from supposed friends Dallas (Andre Hyland: Funnel 2014, Mr. Roosevelt 2017) and Arin (Adina Howard: Adina Howard: Freak Like Me 1995, Casanova’s Demise 2002) yield their own challenges. In the simplest terms, as long as Abbie is determined to win the challenge, he is on his own health and sanity be damned.
Confined alone in Cam’s tiny decrepit apartment can Abbie achieve the unachievable? Is he really finally able to finish a challenge? Or will he forever be branded a quitter who will never complete anything in his life?
Everyone wants to be able to look back on their lives and be able to say that they were able to accomplish something. Relaxer is a film about a man, Abbie, who has never accomplished anything in his life other than being a failure at everything he does. He simply cannot follow through anything. Plainly stated, he is a loser; a nonstarter with dreams of grandeur. Burge’s Abbie is perfectly pathetic half naked in dirty boxers surrounded by filth and decay. His mouse like declaration of, “One more challenge. One more final ultimate challenge. I quit at quitting,” will elicit reactive eye rolls. The viewer will immediately feel sorry for him, but also hate him for allowing himself to become a non-factor in his own life.
Like most, it is not that he does not want to succeed at anything, rather his meek non-confrontational personality does not allow him to finish anything he attempts to start. Couple his childlike wallflower personality with an upbringing of overbearing on the fringe of society doomsday survivalists Abbie does not stand a chance of greatness in his current state. The film brilliantly follows him stubbornly taking a stand for himself in his signature passive aggressive way literally planted in one spot on a torn up and duct taped couch as he attempts to break out of his comfort zone and find out what he is really made of…if anything at all.
One of the most realistic and depressing themes of the film centers on the coldness of solitude. Every disastrous second Abbie is rooted on the couch it is painfully apparent that he is completely alone in the world. Sure, he has family and supposed friends, but at this point in his life none expect anything from him and dismiss his cries for help in performing the challenge. His brother, Cam, mocks him mercilessly. His friend, Dallas taunts him with coveted refreshments of cherry cola. The only person who seems to care at all about his well being is Arin, but even she is over watching him failing and cannot give him anymore than she already has. Abbie symbolizes everyone who has burned bridges due to their ineptitude, yet still wants more than anything to prove worth.
It seems like an impossible task to create a compelling film with limited scenery, but Potrykus has pulled out a miracle and created a train wreck of a character and plot that at times is cringeworthy to watch, yet the viewer will not be able to look away. The apartment already looks like the aftermath of the apocalypse. The walls are dirty and filled with crude spray painted graffiti. Duct tape adorns various fixtures throughout the apartment. Viewers will be grateful smell-o-vison has yet to be the norm as the various stains and even Abbie, himself, appear to be straight from the underbelly of a metropolitan dump. Cleanliness does not exist in this reality. It would be grossly out of place anyway, as anyone like Abbie who has something to prove already feels like rotten trash. There is no room to go any lower. The apartment mirrors Abbie’s current state in life. Worthless squalor that no sane person would ever want to spend time near or claim ownership.
Abbie is a man with nothing to lose and everything to prove. In the most twisted way, he is the poster child for all people who have not accomplished anything significant in their lives. The absurd scenery and self-inflected torture he puts himself through gives a twisted hope to any viewer who yearns to be more than what is expected of them. Relaxer is a film for every loser at heart. This and many more spoiler induced reasons are why Cryptic Rock give Relaxer 4.5 out of 5 stars.