If you wanted to remake and update that iconic ’80s comedy of teen angst, “The Breakfast Club,” here’s what you might try.
The “popular” girl, played by Molly Ringwald? Make her an Instagram star (Hana Hayes) and social media “influencer” — narcissistic and selfie-obsessed.
The Judd Nelson rebel, aware of everybody’s issues but mmore concerned with his own? Make him or her transgender (Tyler DiChiara).
“You have a serious PRONOUN problem, don’t you?”
Ally Sheedy’s quiet eccentric could be an OCD germaphobe with blue Princess Leia buns, convinced she was once abducted by aliens. And if we’re being more diverse than the famously monochromatic chronicler of white, suburban youth, John Hughes — make her AmerAsian (Chelsea Zhang).
Put Ally Sheedy’s hair on Michael Anthony Hall’s withdrawn, frightened-by-his-own-shadow nerd and make him a medicated, manic depressive (Rio Mangini).
The Emilio Estevez jock, who has frustrated his Dad’s expectations and is the least interesting character in the story? Give him anger management issues and a pain killer addiction (Mateus Ward).
Give them a chance to do that “Breakfast Club” library line dance.
Instead of weekend high school detention (School discipline? How ’80s!), park these misfits in a “treatment facility,” a private rehab/mental hospital for young people. And make the jerk in charge not a hardass assistant principal, but a mental health professional and administrator (James Morrison) with a #MeToo cringy creeper edge.
If nothing else, Justin Ward’s “Relish” checks off all the current culture boxes. It’s
woke.” He just leaves out the warmth, the wit, the pathos and the career-making charisma that everybody gathered for “Breakfast” had, back in the day.
They’re all in the Deacon facility in rural Southern California for good — or at least understandable — reasons.
And they all want to get out. There’s this Coachella-like concert, the Dreamland Gathering, that drives Kai (DiChaira) to want out of group therapy, where “our mantra,” per Dr. Harrison (Angela Parker) is progress, not perfection.”
Kai rubs EVERYbody the wrong way, but as Dr. Harrison explains, “not feeling at home in your own body” will do that.
Aspen (Hayes) is reluctant. She’s allegedly here by choice, Internet popular, “sponsored,” but miserable.
Levi (Mateus Ward) is impulsive, testosterony and ready for action, even if he dislikes Kai and wants the headcase he disdainfully calls “Split,” Theo (Mangini) left out.
Sawyer (Zhang)? She’s just along for the ride.
They break out, and have misadventures and a guy vintage clothing boutique makeover thanks to owner Nova Charisse (Brian Wallace, almost the only amusing performance in this), campouts in the facility van Levi hot-wired, pursued by the ineffectual minions of evil Mr. Stratton (Morrison).
Passing a beer-can bong around the campfire seems in character.
And despite pauses so that each character can share “my truth” and “big revelations” that aren’t that big, there’s not a lot of empathy here, and nothing the least bit amusing.
The opening scene, a brawl in a convenience store/restaurant, explains why. It’s a viscious, score-settling fist fight with rural homophobes. The breakout from Deacon involves pummeling and choking out a guard (Diane Delano).
Levi’s “conversion” to liking and appreciating Theo is abrupt and nonsensical.
Kai’s rants are delivered in a “I need enunciation exercises” slur, not that there are catch-phrases and memorable lines mixed in there.
Couples will form, epiphanies appear, the concert beckons, and hell, who cares?
Zhang is the stand-out among the cast, the lone performer with the charisma to have held her own with that original “Breakfast Club” cast. The script does nobody any favors, and DiChiara –whatever the actor’s biography — looks so little like a girl who identifies as a boy that the battle was lost before that Ace bandage was wrapped around her chest to hide breasts that aren’t actually there. It’s not shocking when an obviously (somewhat) buff male punches out his tormenter. It would be if he came off as more “she.”
I appreciate the attempt, understand the impossibility of trying to recapture lightning in a bottle, and could have done without the violence.
“Woke” this homage may be. But there’s nothing much to “Relish” here.
MPAA Rating: unrated, profanity, sexual situations, teens smoking weed and drinking
Cast: Tyler DiChiara, Hana Hayes, Mateus Ward, Chelsea Zhang, Rio Mangini and James Morrison
Credits: Written and directed by Justin Ward. An Manm release
Running time: 1:37