' ' Cinema Romantico: Some Drivel On...Relaxer

Friday, March 17, 2023

Some Drivel On...Relaxer

Set in the last few months of 1999 as Y2K beckons and featuring a main character, Abbie (Joshua Burge), who spends the entire 91-minute run time sitting on the couch in his underwear playing video games, writer/director Joel Potrykus’s skeezy but strangely moving 2018 indie essentially brings the slacker ethos of the 90s to its dramatic end point by equating the video game record Abbie desperately tries to set with the literal end of the world. It sounds a little like 1962’s “The Exterminating Angel,” of course, the Luis Buñuel avant-garde classic, cited by Potrykus as inspiration, where party guests can’t leave. Yet, while Potrykus plays coy with, say, where Abbie is, like, you know, going to the bathroom, that video game record he seeks to break, and the milk chugging record he attempts to beat before that, are consciously portrayed as not necessarily real records in the first place, a product of Abbie’s older brother (David Dastmalchian) cruelly messing with him, and slyly sending up the whole idea of narrative stakes in the first place. And though “Relaxer” finds ways to break up the visual monotony, never more than an ode to “Castaway,” what’s most gripping is Burge investing his man boy (Abbie desperately wants to have a Chuckie Cheese pizza delivered) a surprising poignancy. Burge’s apologetically whiny voice evokes someone who, as his situation dictates, just wants to be left alone to play video games all day, the sunglasses the character occasionally slips on improbably becoming an adult security blanket as a superpower, as if under the cover of puerility, we are all superheroes in our own minds. 

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