Anyone who hasn’t seen The Breakfast Club will find in Justin Ward’s Relish a fresh take on the wild emotional extremes of teen angst and mania. The other 99% of us will enjoy Relish as an updated road-trip homage to John Hughes’ seminal film about apparently disparate kids forced together for an extended adventure, facing a common enemy.
In a treatment center for troubled young adults, somewhere in the California desert, a trans-boy named Kai (Tyler DiChiara ) conceives an absurd plot to break out and find a way to attend the Dreamland music festival. He convinces four others to join him, and working together they find themselves outside the facility one night, in a stolen van, shocked that the plan actually worked.
Out on the road, evading the staff of the treatment center, the first magical place and person they encounter is at the vintage thrift boutique of Nova Charise (Brian Wallace). Like a flamboyant, wine-soaked Jedi Master crossed with Rocky Horror’s Frank-N-Furter, Nova Charise encourages them to find clothes to express their true selves. This side-journey of discovery is their doorway to Dreamland. When they reveal cannot pay for what they’ve chosen, he sagely regards them with a knowing look and tells them it’s OK, they can have the clothes.
Having answered the call to adventure and been mentored, they strike out on their quest of transformation, which is pulled up short very rapidly due to the aforementioned lack of funds.
This group puts the fun in dysfunctional. The character mix almost directly maps to the group from the Shermer High library. There’s a basket case, a princess, and an athlete. In place of the criminal and the brain, Ward has provided a charmingly rebellious anti-hero (who’s attitude is all Bender) and a strange Asian girl with OCD who is waiting to be spirited away by the aliens who previously abducted her and promised to return for her someday.
“Having answered the call to adventure and been mentored, they strike out on their heroes quest of transformation…”
The colorful distraction of the film is Aspen (Hana Hayes), our beautiful princess who tells the group she’s checked herself in for a break in the stressful demands of being a star social media influencer. Aspen is not convinced any moment is real if not captured in a selfie. She’s obsessed and addicted to that IG life, feeding off online adoration as her only source of validation.
Mateus Ward is Levi, the sneering athlete. He’s a cool kid, convinced he does not belong in this looney bin with these dweebs, but he busted his ankle and can’t play football now, and he got addicted to painkillers.