Sean Baker premiered Red Rocket at the Cannes Film Festival this year and now brings it to London Film Festival. The new work stars Simon Rex as Mikey, an ex-porn star who isn’t shy about his former glory. He has fallen from grace and returned to his small Texas hometown to move back in with his estranged wife and mother-in-law. The only reason that Mikey isn’t dead or in jail is because he has the gift of the gab – and he basically prattles like a travelling salesman through the entire film. He talks his way into a job selling weed, befriends a young neighbour merely to brag about his success in porn, and falls for a 17-year-old doughnut shop worker, whom he tries to persuade to run away with him to return to the industry.
Mikey describes himself as a “big city guy” and is only home to make money, fuel his ego and get some sex before he hops on a bus back to LA. As he starts sleeping with Lexi again, he strikes up a relationship with Strawberry, a sweet, Southern belle who is under the impression that he lives in a mansion caring for his sick mother – every time she drops him outside the impressive home, he cycles back to Lil’s two-bedroom bungalow and never the twain shall meet. The audience is waiting for Mikey to get caught in his own web but just when the ice seems to crack under his feet, it refreezes. Even when he is partly responsible for a road disaster, he constantly evades accountability. The audience is on edge for the entire film, waiting for his day of reckoning.
Simon Rex gives the performance of his career, though that isn’t difficult as much of his work has been under the radar since the Scary Movie franchise – but it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role. He carries the entire weight of Red Rocket on his shoulders; the chaotic, messy energy of Mikey combined with class-A comedic timing engages the audience from the first second to the very last, never losing its grasp or going overboard. Baker’s directing is stunning, as always, with certain scenes reminiscent of The Florida Project breathing purity and beauty into others that seem so derelict and hopeless. The soundtrack features The Backstreet Boys more than once, which is always a plus.
Red Rocket is an unconventional but hilarious, energetic and sprightly fable of a man’s pursuit of the American Dream.
Red Rocket does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2021 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for Red Rocket here: