10 August 2019 | AlGranthamMusic
Somewhat Underwhelming Follow Up To "Buzzard"
I was very much taken aback upon watching writer/director Joel Potrykus' previous film Buzzard. It's been a few years, but I remember appreciating it both as a great character study, as well as a love-letter to 80s and 90s pop culture (it was also very funny). I grew up in the 90s myself, and find my own nostalgia for that pre-smart phone, pre-internet period to be immense. When I read the premise of Potrykus' latest film Relaxer, I was naturally excited to see it.
Relaxer concerns woebegone slacker Abbie's inability to get off the couch. The film begins with his older brother Cam bullying him into completing a challenge involving drinking a certain amount of nebulous-looking milk, the successful completion of which Abbie places above, say, bathing or using a toilet. Cam disputes the successful completion of the dairy challenge and presents Abbie with a new one: conquering level 256 of Pac Man for a large monetary reward. Seemingly unable to stand up to his older brother or take care of his basic human needs, Abbie complies. The remainder of the film takes place exclusively in Abbie's disgusting apartment, where he is visited by some annoying friends who provide little relief to the situation. As the films continues, the absurdity level delightfully ramps up.
Even moreso than Buzzard, Relaxer harkens back to some dialogue heavy slacker films of yesteryear. I was reminded mostly of early Kevin Smith and Richard Linklater, partly for the geek culture reverie. There's also shades of Jim Jarmusch and Harmony Korine here.
Joshua Burge once again takes on the lead role, as he did in Buzzard. His droopy eyes and unusual appearance lend themselves well to these types of outsider roles, but that's not to take anything away from his acting chops. His understated performance nearly transcends the boredom of watching his one-note, arc-less character interact with other similar characters for an hour and a half. Alas, for a film that lives and dies on its dialogue, Relaxer isn't quite funny enough to negate the malaise. The film picked up some steam in its final act, but it felt too-little, too-late by then.
Unlike Buzzard, Abbie doesn't appear to be at odds with any internal struggle, other than completing whichever trivial challenge he's currently facing. Perhaps that Relaxer's point, and while authentic, doesn't make for a very entertaining film.
Qualms aside, I continue to appreciate Potrykus' unique vision, and eagerly await his next film.