Red Rocket Resume Reviews
Red Rocket Resume Reviews – The filmmaker’s follow-up to Tangerine and The Florida Project is another comedy about life on the fringes of American society.
With Red Rocket, Sean Baker has given us a grown-up American pastor, essentially a comedy, and another study of hard life on the fringes, close in the spirit of the lo-fi revolution Tangerine.
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Actor, rapper, comedian and one-time porn star Simon Rex gives an entertaining performance as a washed-up adult movie actor with the not-so-subtle professional name of Mikey Saber. Mikey’s career in LA has gone south, mainly due to his regular work in the parody sex franchise The Fast and Fury Ass – but as a porn version of the character played by Paul Walker, whose death tragically put an end to Mikey’s career.
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Now, with no money and cuts and bruises from unexplained feuds with various business partners, Mikey is returning to his hometown of Texas City, Texas, where he angers and surprises his abandoned wife and former leader of the local porn scene, Lexi ( Bree Elrod), by asking if he can bang her for a few days.
After an unconvincing attempt to land a respectable job at one of the city’s various fast food joints, Mikey starts dealing weed, while rekindling his marriage to Lexi and regaling everyone with tales of his soon-to-be relaunched glamorous porn career. But then Mikey finds himself falling in love with Strawberry (Suzanna Son), a young woman who works at the donut shop. He’s convinced it’s natural porn and his ticket back to the triple-X big time.
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The year happens to be 2016, when Hillary Clinton is facing Donald Trump for the US presidency, but it’s tempting to read Mikey as Trump’s incarnation now in 2021, on the cusp of disaster, with his imminent return in mind.
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It’s live, real filmmaking, without the need for an epic budget. Amusingly, when the plot calls for a mass car pile-up, Baker shows us Mikey’s car going out of control, then turns around and recycles what appears to be genuine TV news footage of lost cars on the freeway.
Mikey is a speedy parasite who has the predator-parasite instinct to draw other people into his orbit and convince them that his interests are theirs. However, he is often far from successful in this, and there is a terrifying moment when he is beaten by the parents of Strawberry’s ex-boyfriend. But despite all this, there is something poignant and even sympathetic to Mikey and Strawberry, and Baker makes us see that it would be sad if they ended up back in Texas City, but also equally sad if they ended up in Los Angeles. You can picture Mikey aging like the locals in Texas City, who are so displeased to see him again.. In at least one interview covering Sean Baker’s new film, the director is described as an “actor on fire.” when it comes to the subject of the film. In 2017, Baker directed the number one film of the year, The Florida Project. I praised that film for practicing radical compassion. In my description of
For my top ten list that year I emphasized that “we have a responsibility to look out for each other. And yes, even when we don’t agree with someone’s life choices. Yes, even when we don’t think they deserve it. No one deserves to live on the fringes of our society because they don’t have enough of the one thing we seem to care about: money.”
Baker and his frequent collaborator, Chris Bergoch, test the limits of the radical empathy I mentioned in my praise for
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. It’s as if Baker wanted to know if I, personally, would have the same sympathy for an abuser, someone who uses anyone to get what they want. Baker does it for laughs in a movie about a 40-something man who uses every ounce of his charm to convince a 17-year-old girl to run away with him so they can make a fortune together on porn.
As I showed it and am still struggling with it as I sit here writing this. (If nothing else, Baker’s film is a powerful example of why I find what I’ve been doing with this website for over a decade so challenging and rewarding.)
Plays with fire and you can argue that the character who gets burned is the one who deserves it. Baker’s choice to center an irredeemable abuser within
Pissed me off. You can argue that the film gives the character exactly what he deserves in the final minutes. But for the nearly two hours leading up to the finale, Baker shows him blossoming into his authentic self; a key part of that is taking advantage of people who don’t know any better.
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Mikey Saber is a down-on-his-luck former porn star. When we meet him, he’s at the end of a one-way bus trip from LA back to his hometown of Texas City, Texas. The black eye and bruises he’s got tell us he’s getting away with something. We’ll never find out exactly what, but we’ll learn in the movie that he’s an expert at giving people a reason to want to kick their ass.
Desperate and with nowhere else to go, Mikey begs—or rather, charms—his wife, Lexi, and her mother, Lil, to let him crash at their house until he gets back on his feet. It’s fun to see Mikey’s cheeky con game work, there’s a charm to the poised Lexi and Lil on the first reel.
We’ve all known someone like Mikey, endlessly working the corners with his nonstop chatter in a relentless attack to convince you to give him what he wants. And we all know where someone like Mikey will end up. It is in their nature to find themselves in situations they cannot possibly talk their way out of.
. Beyond Mikey’s simultaneously amusing and irritating behavior, Baker and Bergoch briefly explore the stigma attached to being a sex worker.
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Mikey is really trying to find a job. The film uses editing to show the character going through half a dozen or so interviews. They all end in disaster when he has to admit that the reason there’s a long gap on his resume is because he’s spent the last two decades making porn for a living.
, Baker mixes comedy and pathos to create sympathy for his main character. Mikey’s constant bluster in the interview sequences is exhausting, but you have to admire the guy for trying. Because Baker has set up Mikey as our hero, I was rooting for him early on. When he has to resort to selling weed for a local dealer so he can pay Lil’s rent, I focused not on his bad decision, but on the cruelty of society that forces a man like Mikey to make it.
Then Mikey meets Strawberry, a 17-year-old boy who works at The Donut Hole. (Baker must have laughed heartily when he found the restaurant.) Everyone calls the girl Strawberry because of her fiery red hair. Mikey immediately starts drooling over her. For a while I wasn’t sure if it was because he simply wanted to fuck her or because he wanted to turn her inside out and turn her into a porn star. Unlike Mikey, I was thinking too little. Mikey wears both because he is, as his wife calls him late in the film, a suitcase pimp. This is a man who lives off the earnings of women on porn that he “controls”.
That it was imperative that I not infant Strawberry. Baker and the actress who plays the character, newcomer Suzanna Son, both give Strawberry authority; at least as much autonomy as anyone living in the difficult economic conditions of her hometown can have.
Angela Ashurst Mcgee, Cprw
, admires Mikey’s sincere carnal obsession with Strawberry. That’s what makes it so disgusting. There are a lot of women – I found a few when I was scanning the responses
On Letterboxd — who know exactly why the majority of critics, who are overwhelmingly straight men, have been effusive in their praise of Baker’s film.
Strawberry has authority – as my wife reminded me after the movie ended, sometimes 17-year-old girls want to fuck older men, and there’s nothing wrong with that. She never does anything in the movie that she doesn’t want to do. Mikey’s merciless predatory behavior and the fact that Baker is targeting him instead of Strawberry pissed me off
Even more troubling is that Baker cast 26-year-old Suzanna Son to play 17-year-old Strawberry. In a patriarchal world where it’s common to make young girls look like grown women so they can more easily sexualize themselves, Baker stops short of commenting on society and instead revels in it.
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There is also a semi-thematic element to the film
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