Red rocket

Red rocket
Original title:Red rocket
Director:Sean Baker
Running time:128 minutes
Release date:10 december 2021
Mikey Saber returns to his hometown in Texas after years of being a porn star in Los Angeles. But he's not really welcome there. With no money and no job, he has no choice but to move back in with his ex-wife and mother-in-law. While he resumes his little schemes to pay his rent, an encounter will give him hope for a new start.

Mulder's Review

This year the American Film Festival of Deauville awarded two prizes to Sean Baker's new film, Red Rocket, the Jury Prize and the International Critics' Prize. The sixth film of this director after Four Letter Words (2000), Prince of Broadway (2008), Starlet (2012), Tangerine (2015), The Florida Project (2017) (we do not take into account the film co-directed with Shih-Ching Tsou, Take out (2004) turns out to be his best to date and deserves to be discovered especially for the remarkable performance of Simon Rex (Scary Movie 3, 4 and 5, Superhero Movie (2008)) and especially the revelation of the film Suzanna Son.

The director and screenwriter Sean Baker seems to be clearly interested in deep America and the American underprivileged middle class at the center of his main films as here. Yet the strong social message of the film The Florida Project (2017) gives way here to a comedy-drama set in Texas far from the Hollywood glitz and touristy places too often shown in American films. This setting serves as the basis for a film that can be interpreted in many ways, which makes it an undeniable success.

Mikey Saber is a former Hollywood adult film star. However, his many antics have earned him his career and he finds himself persona non grata in his professional environment. With no formal education and no alternative but to return home to Texas, he finds his ex-wife and his mother-in-law in a modest Texas home in an environment marked by high unemployment and little hope for the people who live there. To help pay the rent, he has no other means than to return to his former occupations as a drug dealer. His future seems bleak, but he meets a beautiful young waitress from a donut store, Strawberry (Suzanna Son, the real revelation of the film). Their affair will allow Mikey Saber to glimpse a better future and especially a possible return to the world of adult films in which his popularity was undeniable. 

It is interesting to see that Red Rocket can also be seen as a fantasy film in the sense that the Donuts store reveals some small details that lead us to think that it exists only in Mikey Saber's head and that it is connected to his past. In the same way, the name of the main heroine Strawberry is easily reminiscent of a stage name used in the adult film industry. Viewers may wonder if Strawberry is not his ex-wife before she leaves the business and returns to Texas like him. The past and present intertwine like a mirror effect and add to the film's interpretation, which may be a bit convoluted but it holds together.

While the title of the film is an American slang term for a dog's erection (a nod to the main character's work tool), it is easy to understand the director's desire, with the help of co-writer Chris Bergoch, to tackle a new theme in his films, and the film's many explicit scenes make Red Rocket a comedy-drama for an informed audience. Similarly, it is no coincidence that the film takes place in 2016 during the presidential election from which Donald Trump will emerge victorious. The director seems to show the loss of reference of a country that is looking for itself. Like Mikey Saber who reveals himself unable to control his ardor and who seems ready to do anything to win his pass back to Los Angeles. 

Sean Baker proves to be an excellent storyteller here and makes Red Rocket one of the best surprises of the official selection in competition of the Deauville American Film Festival. It is impossible not to resist the superb Suzanna Son who gives to her character Strawberry all her innocence and fragility. For her alone, the film deserves to be discovered in theaters. It must be recognized that Sean Baker, who recruits his own actors, has a perfect sense of casting and proves to be once again one of the best directors of independent cinema. Far from seeking the ephemeral lights of Hollywood studios, he continues his career as a director by making the films he wants with a real artistic freedom. Red Rocket is definitely a film event that we can only encourage you to discover when it comes out in theaters.

Red Rocket
Directed by Sean Baker
Written by Chris Bergoch, Sean Baker
Produced by Sean Baker, Alex Coco, Samantha Quan, Alex Saks, Shih-Ching Tsou
Starring Simon Rex, Bree Elrod, Suzanna Son
Cinematography : Drew Daniels
Production company : FilmNation Entertainment
Distributed by A24 (United States), Le Pacte (France)
Release date : July 14, 2021 (Cannes)
Running time : 128 minutes

Seen on September 9, 2021 at the Centre International de Deauville

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