Relaxer, Directed by Joel Potrykus, USA
Overview: With the impending Y2K apocalypse fast approaching, Abbie (Joshua Burge) is faced with the ultimate challenge – the unbeatable level 256 on Pac-Man – and he can’t get off the couch until he conquers it. A survival story set in a living room.
Directors: Joel Potrykus
Writer: Joel Potrykus
Starring: Joshua Burge, David Dastmalchian, Andre Hyland
Joel Potrykus’ films are not for everyone. The characters are not always ones we can be sympathetic to, and some people may consider the films trashy or a waste of time. For me, however, they very much capture the 1990s indie vibe that Richard Linklater perfected in SLACKER. (affiliate link) Lower budget, no big actors, but a strong script in a setting we can identify with (though hopefully none of us live in as much squalor as RELAXER). (affiliate link) Linklater may have moved on to crating Oscar-worthy films, but we still have Potrykus. Hopefully we always will.
While ALCHEMIST COOKBOOK (2016) (affiliate link) was a fine film in its own right, Potrykus’ masterpiece up to this point has been BUZZARD (2014). (affiliate link) By bringing back his muse, Joshua Burge, RELAXER (affiliate link) recaptures some of that magic from BUZZARD, (affiliate link) and mixes it in with a healthy dose of 127 HOURS (affiliate link) and just a sprinkling of SCANNERS. (affiliate link) Sure, being stuck to a couch may not be as harrowing as being stuck in a mountain, but the dramatic response is doled out in equal measure. (Some press describes RELAXER (affiliate link) as a modern interpretation of Luis Buñuel’s THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL, (affiliate link) but let’s not go that far!)
Much is done with very little budget, and location scouting must have been simple because we never even leave the room. We barely even change camera angles. If minimalist films are not for you, this is going to be a nightmare. But if you want that 90s indie vibe back, and especially if you grew up in the Midwest, I think this could be your next guilty pleasure.