Red Rocket continues Sean Baker’s streak of depicting real people that don’t really have a chance to see themselves on the big screen.
Listen, I think Sean Baker is a fine filmmaker but there are aspects of the film that made me very uncomfortable. I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss it in my review. While there is a solid amount of humor, don’t get me wrong, I can’t ignore the parts that…are not fine. I don’t have a problem with the fact that the film’s main lead, Mikey Saber (Simon Rex) is a down-on-his-luck porn star. No, my problem comes with the fact that he’s grooming the underage Strawberry (Suzanna Son) to follow him into the business. Not just grooming her but he eventually sleeps with her. If that’s your cup of tea, fine, but it just didn’t sit well with me.
No longer owning his hometown accent Mikey comes back home to Texas City, TX, where he moves back in with his estranged wife, Lexi (Bree Elrod), and mother-in-law, Lil (Brenda Deiss). They aren’t having any of it. And of course, by the time it feels like they’re back together, Mikey starts cheating on her with Strawberry. As a viewer, you start asking yourself as to who you’re supposed to be rooting for in the film. It doesn’t feel like anyone is worthy of our rooting interest. Certainly not Mikey and he’s the film’s lead! Nobody in his hometown even wants him back at home. So why should we even bother rooting for him to succeed?
Mikey clearly doesn’t like being back home. He’d rather be making money back in LA. Lo and behold, Mikey meets Strawberry and thinks that she could be the next big thing. She’s 17 at the moment and will be for the next few weeks. The age of consent in Texas is 17 but the age difference should make viewers uncomfortable.. Mikey is close to 50 years old and is old enough to be Strawberry’s father!
We have a film running two hours and change and despite all the flaws, it tries to win us over with laughs. I admit that this almost worked. In hindsight, maybe I shouldn’t have tweeted so soon after the screening because I should have slept on it. A few days later, here I am writing a review that is probably close to a pan. My problem with the film isn’t the fact that Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch depict real people. The 2016 setting–Trump signs, RNC, DNC, and all–also might bring about PTSD for those who lived through the dark years.
Red Rocket came about because of the pandemic. Sean Baker had other plans for 2020 but alas, a Vancouver romance shoot just wasn’t meant to be. A pivot meant writing a film about a suitcase pimp. There’s no denying that Sean Baker has a way of discovering talent and has done so for a few films in a row but the film’s content could lead viewers to sit uncomfortably. Perhaps Simon Rex might have a second life so to speak–he was a series regular in season one of the Amanda Bynes sitcom, What I Like About You. Oh yeah, there’s so much nudity in this film that you just might be forever scarred for life when it comes to one song in particular.
DIRECTOR: Sean Baker
SCREENWRITERS: Sean Baker & Chris Bergoch
CAST: Simon Rex, Suzanna Son, Bree Elrod, Brenda Deiss, Ethan Darbone, Brittany Rodriguez, Judy Hill
A24 will release Red Rocket in theaters on December 3, 2021.
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