Red Rocket (18)
Dir. Sean Baker
Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@cleric20)
“Let’s give it a couple of days, and see how it goes…”
“Yeah. Whatever you’re comfortable with. I don’t want to make you uncomfortable. I’m here to help. And, look, before long, it’ll be like we’re still married.”
“WE ARE STILL MARRIED.”
I fell hard for Sean Baker’s last film The Florida Project (my ‘film of the year’ review) and so it was with high expectations I went into Red Rocket… Fuelled by the powerhouse of an incredible charismatic turn by actor, rapper, comedian and one-time porn performer Simon Rex, who has a ball as washed-up adult movie actor ‘Mikey Saber’. The plot sees Mikey’s sexy film business in LA where he ‘stars’ in high-brow franchises like ‘The Fast and Fury Ass’ – he takes the Paul Walker role (but whose untimely death put a stop to his involvement!?).
Beaten up and broke, we get to follow Mikey as he returns to his estranged wife’s home in Texas - his plan is to beg his former leading porn lady Lexi (Bree Elrod), but finds her still incredibly pissed off with him at first but she eventually relents and gives him a chance. Mikey, to his credit, does pay the rent and performs his “marital” bedroom duties with aplomb as it is after all his main skillset.
Red Rocket is another tour-of-duty by Baker who takes us on a safari through the lives of these dirt-poor, uneducated and pretty hopeless rust-belt underclasses. These are folks who you want to root for but who continually make terrible decisions that lead to destructive outcomes that you’ll want to weep for them. With legit work hard to come by Mikey starts dealing weed - to workmen who visit a local doughnut shop - where he immediately falls for the young ‘Strawberry’ (a fantastic Suzanna Son).
He is convinced she is a potential natural at the adult film game and his ticket back to the triple-X big time. And she looks up to him for the dubious honour of having won a porn ‘Oscar’ for ‘best oral’ - although full disclosure - he had to share it with ten other men who were also ‘serviced’ by the same woman.
The tragic tale is set against the backdrop of Clinton vs Trump Presidential Campaign and there is much you could read into the tale about how little macro world events resonate with these people. This vivid, real-feeling and moderately budgeted stylish fable is as heartbreaking as it is amusing. There is horror in a multi-vehicle pileup which impacts the lives of Mikey in more than just an allegory of his car crash of a life.
If there’s any justice in the world Mikey should be a cinematic cult icon of the future, his fast-talking hustler predator stare and easy-winning charm is incredibly watchable. The climax leaves you breathless and broken in equal measure - what future for the star-crossed lovers Mikey and Strawberry??
(5 - Stunning underbelly adult thrills...)
Awesomeness ööööö – Joy and pain, love and other hardships
Laughs ööö – Wry fun but not a comedy
Horror ööö – Real life can and will very likely break you