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The Crack Magazine

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Red Rocket

Director: Sean Baker

Stars: Simon Rex, Suzanna Son, Bree Elrod, Brenda Deiss, Judy Hill

A washed-out porn star tries to rebuild his life in Sean Baker’s fantastic and cheekily subversive satire. Covered in bruises and with seemingly no possessions, Mikey Saber (Baker) is riding the bus back to his Texas Gulf Coast hometown after an absence of some sixteen years. He makes his way to the house of his estranged wife Lexi (Elrod) where she lives with her elderly mother Lil (Deiss). Initially they want nothing to do with him, but Mikey eventually cajoles them into letting him stay with the promise of mucking in with the chores and contributing towards the rent. Finding honest work proves impossible with a sixteen-year gap in his resume, even more so after Mikey comes clean about his porno past, so he resorts to dealing weed for local matriarch Leondria (Hill). Later, while treating Lexi and her mother to donuts, he spies pretty seventeen-year-old donut shop employee Raylee (Son), and a business opportunity presents itself. Rex is hilarious and horribly compelling as the hyperactive, constantly hustling Mikey. He is such a magnetic presence that audiences may feel incriminated in warming to him when his true nature is revealed. Set during the US 2016 election, the picture also works as an allegory with Mikey as a Trumpian mountebank figure, full of flash and unswerving self-confidence, but leaving only damage in his wake. As with his previous pictures, ‘Tangerine’ and ‘The Florida Project’, Baker elicits fantastic performances from the supporting cast of non-professionals. The camerawork is broadly no-frills, but there are moments of beauty, such as shots of Mikey riding his comically small bicycle at sunset, framed by the vast Texas sky and the glittering lights of the oil refineries.