Sean Baker has had a nice career for himself. He’s done it the hard way, though, doing low-budget indie films like Tangerine and The Florida Project. Willem Dafoe was nominated for best supporting actor for The Florida Project. His latest, another indie film, is called Red Rocket. It stars an actual porn star, Simon Rex, as Mikey Saber, a down on his luck porn star. That’s pretty meta if you ask me.
Rex’s Saber is straight off of a bus from California. He returns home to Texas to his ex’s (Bree Elrod) house where he’s not welcomed, but he cons his way into her house with shallow promises. He finds some side work as a weed pusher and eventually meets a young girl (Suzanna Son) at a donut shop. He thinks he’s going to turn her into the next big thing in the porn industry.
The look of the film has a muted, dirty feeling to it. The cinematography by Drew Daniels (Krisha, Waves, It Comes at Night) is a little worn. It makes the film look lived in and most of the time. Other scenes are made to look bright and clean when the locations change. They change it up from scene to scene and place to place. The scenes are at Mikey’s ex’s house while the pretty scenes are at the donut girl’s home, signaling the differences between the women and the lives they lead.
Rex is predominantly a porn star, but he had parlayed that into a career in actual acting that’s to Baker. Son and Elrod are both great as two sides of a coin. One is the innocent young impressionable girl who listens to Rex’s character. The other is a worn-out woman who’s been through wars with men in her past. They are both very believable in their various roles. Baker gets the most out of everybody in the film, even the owner of the donut shop, the lady drug dealer, and the neighbor kid.
Baker likes to take these types of subsections of society and focus on them. He gets a lot out of the characters and story this way. As a filmmaker, you can get the drama out of these poor downtrodden sectors of America. Rex’s character gets a little over his head which is what a lot of people in his situation would do. I hate to say, it reminds me a little of my upbringing when I was a kid.
Red Rocket is a film with a good message about what not to do in life. One bad decision can lead to another and turn into an avalanche. Baker peels the layers off of this story and lets the film bring and find its inevitable conclusion. Even the song “Bye Bye Bye” from NSYNC is very prophetic in the overall context of the film. The look of the film was very good as well from veteran cinematographer Drew Daniels. Baker has done it again on a shoestring budget. He is a master of making something out of nothing.
4 1/2 stars
Dan Skip Allen