Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch
Simon Rex, Bree Elrod, Suzanna Son
Rated: R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and pervasive language.
‘Red Rocket’ is from director Sean Baker (The Florida Project) and is centered around veteran pornstar Mikey Saber (Simon Rex). Simon is returning in disgrace to his previous girlfriend (Bree Elrod) and her mother. Simon left in a very “Just quit my job and I’m gonna tell everyone off before I leave” energy, so returning to this place almost everyone he knew hates him aside from the neighbor kid that’s giving him rides to sell weed. When Simon come upon a chance to get back into the adult industry with a new starlet named Strawberry (Suzanna Son), he will have to essentially groom her into thinking running away with him to Hollywood is worthwhile.
Being one of the only people who couldn’t stand the ending of Bakers previous film, I was hesitant going into this movie. While the performances are all strong and their actors played their parts well, ‘Red Rocket’ is irredeemable in the eyes of anyone who looks at characters like Mikey Saber and truly just cannot connect, empathize, or want to explore them in anyway. Is some ways, ‘Red Rocket’ is like every awful 90’s dude flick but heightened with the A24 brand to appear much more nuanced than it actually is.
Is this film glorifying grooming women? No, but the story is also letting Mikey off the hook from his constant ignorance and destructive path. There are serious things that happen in the plot that are played for laughs (none of which could be heard in my screening) or just completely dropped without consequences for our main character. All of his punishments are superficial, nothing ends up deterring him from his goal of trapping a nearly underage girl to join him in the porn industry.
Now, isn’t that the point of the film to showcase the darkness of the character in a humorous way? Sure, but when it jokes don’t hit, but hang in the air like a flaccid and dated set of Red Rockets, none of the films premises are worth exploring. Overall, I cannot recommend this film, but like many films this year I am already seeing a swell of support that might make audiences decide for themselves.