Director Sean Baker (Tangerine, The Florida Project), who wrote “Red Rocket” with Chris Bergoch, continues to impress. For his 2015 indie film “Tangerine,” he and Bergoch gave us an in-depth story of the life of sex workers who enjoy their orange juice and donuts. As well as being tumultuous, its slant turned out to be rather raw and captivating.
For this film, Baker takes on another libidinous tale. “Red Rocket” is a dramatic comedy that’s a hit narrative. Here, we have the story of a down-and-out porn star named Mikey, played by Simon Rex, who has been in several “Scary Movie” films. His look is perfect for this role. Mikey still has what it takes to continue in the business in the looks department, but he isn’t currently working, so he has traveled east to get some help. Leaving L.A. has sent him to Texas, to the only house where he knows someone inside will help… that of his ex, Lexi (Bree Elrod). When Mikey knocks on her door, she isn’t necessarily happy to see him but shows kindness and takes him in, as she has fallen on hard times, too. She’s no longer in the business and if he pays rent, they both win. They were hot properties in the world of porn once upon a time, not so much anymore. She sees it fit that working together for a while now behooves them once again.
You’d think her welcoming him into her life would help him see this trip as a way to make amends and start anew. Instead, he looks for a way to get back into the porn business. This dream begins when he meets a girl at the donut shop counter. She’s cute, inexperienced and she’ll be eighteen soon. His eyes light up when he learns that her name is Strawberry (Suzanna Son). This delights him and he begins imagining how he can lure her into, groom her for, a life in porn. With someone so young and naïve, he knows that flattery will get him everywhere. He gets her in bed right away by impressing the young girl with his accomplishments, bragging about his films whenever the opportunity to do so arises. For Mikey, working his ex and the young girl at the same time, getting his needs met by both and his ego stroked, his life couldn’t be improved upon… unless another movie were to come up, of course.
He sells weed for an old friend to get the money to pay rent and prove to Lexi he means business. Hopefully, he won’t spend it all before he gets a chance to become a better person than he has ever been. That’s just wishful thinking. Mikey is a voracious creature with an insatiable need for sex and whatever best suits him. He hasn’t one commendable character trait. This is most evident when Mikey sets his eyes on the youngster who, if he uses hard and fast enough, can get back into being a porn star. Mikey is a creep. Watching the story unfold is as if you’re peeking into a world you’ve only heard of but wouldn’t dare venture into.
Simon Rex plays him well. When first looking at him, you see a slightly innocent face. If you take a moment longer, you get the feeling that you’re staring straight into evil, greedy and selfish eyes. He’ll do almost anything to get what’s best for Mikey. Watch to see if Mikey is at all redeemable and for Sean Baker’s hard-core, blue brand of humor, but whether you agree with me or not, I stand by my score. There’s something in Baker and Mikey you just can’t turn away from.
Directed by: Sean Baker
Written by: Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch
Starring: Simon Rex, Bree Elrod and Suzanna Son
Run Time: 2h 8m
Genres: Comedy, Drama
Distributed by: A24