Simon Rex Delivers A Breakthrough Performance In 'Red Rocket’
By Sal LoCicero | December 31, 2021
Sean Baker is back with another raw dramedy that focuses on the most controversial people of American society. This time, we are introduced to a character who calls himself Mikey Saber (Simon Rex); an ex porn star, who revisits his home in Texas where his wife and mother in law live. Between his family wanting no part of him, and him in need of money, Mikey gets a job at a donut shop where he meets a girl who he plans to make a porn star out of. Sean Baker’s last film was ‘The Florida Project’ in 2017, a film that depicted the life of a little girl and her drug addicted mother in Florida. While ‘Red Rocket’ gives off a similar-ish vibe as Florida Project, this one is more comedic - and raunchy.
When a movie deals with a protagonist who is a selfish jerk, it usually is difficult to stay on board with the story, however Simon Rex has the ability to add some likeness to the character. It’s his performance that helps the most and it’s one that is a comeback to his career. He transforms himself into the character right from the opening scene, and he only gets even better as the movie progresses.
Sean Baker, with his co-writer Chris Bergoch, use their writing skills a little differently this time around. They’ve written (so far) four movies together, three of those; like ‘Starlet’, ‘Tangerine’ and ‘The Florida Project’, have a runtime of under two hours. ‘Red Rocket’ has a runtime of 2 hrs and 10 minutes. Baker and Bergoch take their time to write the movie - as it is slow in the first act. Most of the time, that can be a fault with movies. However it turns out to be necessary, in order for the audience to get a better understanding as to the type of person Mikey Saber is.
As a comedy, it works for a certain reason. Due to the fact that our main character is a moron, the choices he makes are so ridiculous that you can’t help but laugh. His buffoonish character is what keeps you interested to see where he will end up towards the film’s finale. It also works well as a drama, as Baker depicts the life of Texas and the people. All background characters live a not-so-easy life. Some live their lives as drug dealers, and others are dealing with their messed-up family life. The conversation that Baker is trying to bring up are the issues that are present in areas of modern America. It’s all shown in the background of the movie, but this message isn’t depicted much, that is because of how the main character cares so little about everyone.
Given that this movie is about an ex porn star, some scenes can get a bit too extreme and come off very unpleasant. Since the directing is so good, it is understandable why it can be so graphic, but most will not be pleased. The runtime is a little too long, especially during the second act. It keeps its slow pace for a while and it starts to get tiring. About 1 hr of the movie is Simon Rex going back to Texas, living with his family, looking for a job, going to a donut shop, buying weed from his acquaintances and hanging out with his old friend. Then later, is when it takes a turn.
Cinematographer Drew Daniels (Waves, Euphoria) is an unprofessional DOP. Shooting in 16mm doesn’t fit in with this feature. His style of cinematography is sloppy, and it’s the same style he used on ‘Waves’ and 'Euphoria’, which are opposites of ‘Red Rocket’.
‘Red Rocket’ is comedic, raunchy, and raw. Simon Rex deserves every nomination that will be presented next year.