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TV/Film Reviews

Film Review: ‘Red Rocket’ (dir. Sean Baker)

The crisp cinematography, striking color palette, and calculated camerawork made this absolutely fascinating eye candy (and with such great substance of a story, too).

Red Rocket is the latest film from A24 and director Sean Baker (The Florida Project, Tangerine) starring Simon Rex, Suzanna Son, Bree Elrod, and Brenda Deiss.

Simon Rex plays an ex adult film star named Mikey Saber, who is no longer having success in that area of entertainment. He heads back home to his tiny town in Texas, where he moves in with his ex-wife Lexi, played by Bree Elrod, and his ex-mother-in-law Lil, played by Brenda Deiss. Mikey meets 17-year-old girl Strawberry, played by Suzanna Son, while she’s working at a donut shop. 

Mikey Saber gives you every reason to dislike him, but you can’t help but root for him. He’s a washed-up porn-star. I have no reason to relate to him at all. We share nothing in common. But that didn’t matter. It was just the raw humanity of it all. He felt so real to me, and his struggle felt so real. Even when I wanted so badly to see him fail, I kept wanting to see him do better and be better.

Every time Bree Elrod was on the screen, all I could think about is how I wanted to have seen her play a character on Orange is the New Black. She would’ve been perfect for that.

I don’t think there’s a movie out there that uses NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye” better than Red Rocket (and I am almost certain there aren’t any movies that use it more often), but the song has been stuck in my head since I saw this. The cover Suzanna Son sings in the film is now streaming everywhere (and it’s honestly pretty great!).

Suzanna Son’s performance as Strawberry is pretty pitch-perfect, and she captures innocence and intimacy in such a confident but somber way. There was such a nuance to her character, and she had so many hurdles to jump with what her character was going through, but she navigated it so well.

There’s so much with the whole adult-having-a-relationship-with-a-minor-who-is-almost-18 thing that made me feel icky and gross, but it ultimately benefitted the story, even if I really disagree with the behavior these characters displayed. It’s a movie, not a public service announcement.

About two-thirds of the way through, there’s an exciting plot development that will really throw audiences for a spin. If you thought the premise couldn’t get any more twisted than it already was, you were wrong.

Red Rocket could’ve easily been titled The Texas Project or Strawberry a la Sean Baker’s two other films The Florida Project and Tangerine. Sean Baker really knows how to soar when it comes to taking stories from the most run-of-the-mill parts of America and framing them as works of art.

It’s funny, uncomfortable, awkward, shocking, and empathetic, and all of these things work together so well, even when they should be working against each other so much.

The crisp cinematography, striking color palette, and calculated camerawork made this absolutely fascinating eye candy (and with such great substance of a story, too).

Red Rocket is now playing in select theaters.

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