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Thursday, December 9, 2021

Red Rocket

Director: Sean Baker

Studio: A24

Red Rocket blasts off at the speed of light!

Red Rocket is a typical, average drama-indie film that focuses on the washed-up porn star named Mikey Saber who now returns to his small hometown in Texas despite most of the people he knew don't really want him back in their presence. He now comes back to his estranged wife’s house to spend some nights there while seeking employment around town to help pay his ex-wife’s house rent.

Actor and a real-life (but former) porn star Simon Rex (Scary Movie films) receives his meatier-protagonist role as Mikey Saber, a former porn star who travels back to his small hometown in Texas while actress Bree Elrod appears as Mikey’s estranged ex-wife Lexi who reluctantly lets him spend some nights there at her mother Lil’s (portrayed by Brenda Deiss) house until he finds the job to pay the rent of his ex-wife’s mother’s house before deciding to head back to Los Angeles. As an actor, Rex is the man with the plan right there, but has never found a way to excel at all costs. He does have a plan to get back up and revitalize his career, but it requires him to reconnect with his old folks from his past who openly dislike his porn star career.

Under Baker’s direction, the middle act is bloated and not so bright, with much nudity being displayed and long stretches given for light material. He and his crackling filmmaking team explore the themes of hardship and drug life that made the film not to mentally break from that developmental society-mold when it comes to Simon Rex’s supporting characters. For Mikey's journey, his ultimate goal is to get back up on top, even though he sees dark and depressing moments around him as he rekindles with a drug queen that sees her business as a safety net for Lexi’s family. Under his own terms of movie characters, Baker respects Rex and the supporting cast, though Baker’s relationship with Simon Rex seems to be more complex and complicated. Rex as Mikey is a person that you love that you later hate and then bring back the love on and off. He’s like a person you showed dislike to him (and vice-versa). It’s not like you find this very gloomy, you will find this very amusing and intrinsically drawn to him because of his driving ambition, but as the film progresses, Mikey's grand plan comes closer to the film’s turning point that will lead you to shiver and ponder like crazy.

The film also provides some brink of American society as Baker utilizes these situations to explain the unforeseen popularity of Donald Trump on his presidential run-up and media campaign to the 2016 election. Baker's illustration about the allure of Trump doesn't try to be a grand statement for America itself, which is not a typical idea as the messages come together that are completely cleaner and understandable than the ones found in mainstream media and social media by all accounts.

Many thanks to the brilliant acting performance from Rex himself, there’s a lot of emotional responses coming from him whose most prominent role from been a recurring supporting part in the Scary Movie franchise to this film right now with some pornographic solo scenes being filmed in a series of straight-to-video porn releases. It’s almost as if he has lived the life of Mikey throughout the strings of pronograpghy in his entire career, Rex knows how to play the type of sleazy adult-oriented charmer.

While it does contain perfect casting, Red Rocket is an ok, maybe not a perfect movie as a whole. Baker has always found the sweeter side of things in America, which is something that is often unauthentically portrayed in Hollywood. With a runtime of 128 minutes, the film contains enough material for a tighter 100 minutes of the story. Still, with the overly fatty-meatier role given for Rex and the cast more than enough to chew on, resulting in an emotional rollercoaster that couldn't be replicated by bigger productions. Slotting in nicely for Baker's filmography and for distributor A24, Red Rocket is one heck of a ride of a lifetime from beginning to end, though it doesn’t reach the levels of any critically-acclaimed Oscar worthy films for that kind of flavor.


(Review by Henry Pham)

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