VOD film review: Red Rocket
Simon Rex is a revelation10
Drew Daniels’ cinematography10
Katherine McLaughlin | On 09, Jun 2022
Director: Sean Baker
Cast: Simon Rex, Suzanna Son
Director Sean Baker has made a career out of illuminating beauty in the most unexpected places. His Christmas film, Tangerine, was shot on an iPhone and at the intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard and Highland Avenue (a hotspot for sex workers and drug deals) and his previous feature The Florida Project took place on the outskirts of Disney World at the motels where poverty-stricken people endeavoured to establish a home and sense of community.
Baker’s Trump-era film takes a different approach to his heartening tales of life on the fringes, with gorgeous cinematography from Drew Daniels that makes the rundown Texas urban and industrial landscapes pop. This is an audacious and hilarious portrait of a washed-up porn star who can only be described as a complete piece of work with zero redeeming features.
Ex-MTV VJ Simon Rex is a revelation in his role as Mikey Saber who has returned home to Texas after being ousted from the porn business. He somehow persuades his estranged wife to let him crash at her place with her mum and, while there, he lies, cheats and charms the pants of a young donut shop employee named Strawberry (the incredible Suzanna Son). His intentions are all terrible and he intends to groom her to make his big comeback in the porn industry.
Parallels can be drawn between Mikey’s self-serving attitude, skills of persuasion, chaotic lifestyle, stupidity and knack for causing destruction with the way the previous POTUS ran the country. USA emblems are dotted throughout the film, on joint-rolling paper and flying flags, but it’s all handled with subtlety. That’s more than can be said of this sleazy, larger-than-life character’s conduct, who is introduced with the blaring of NSYNC’s Bye, Bye, Bye (perhaps a nod to the waving off of Trump). Suzanna Son also delivers an astonishingly beautiful and lowkey rendition of the song, her dazzling talent and innocence a clear juxtaposition to Mikey’s manipulation, desperation and devil-may-care attitude.
Some may dislike the way such a repellent figure is painted in such a mischievous manner, but it makes the character all the more credible and the film an incredibly entertaining and funny watch. If you have never come across a man equally as charming and full of crap as Mikey then you should count yourself lucky. With Red Rocket, Baker has crafted another masterpiece full of searing highs, black humour and comical hijinks, with a lot to say about the modern world and politics. The money shot? A riotous and utterly thrilling full-frontal, on-foot chase that will have you gasping for air – this is the best comedy of the year.