This year, the Howie Ratner Award for Most Hyperactive, Anxiety-Producing Performance by an Actor goes to Simon Rex for his turn as a washed-up porn star in Sean Baker’s upcoming drama Red Rocket. Early reactions from the Cannes and New York film festivals have brimmed with praise for his appearance as the fast-talking, narcissistic Mikey Saber, albeit with the caveat that watching him manipulate the people around him as he tumbles further into his own self-destruction makes for a stressful experience.
This morning, the first trailer has appeared online, with a lighter tone than these impressions have suggested. (The use of NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye” throws a veil of irony over the disreputable proceedings.) Mikey cuts a swath through the roughest fringes of Texan society, looking for a roof over his head, a warm meal, a warm bed, and a second chance at making something of himself – in that order.
He first tries to shack up with his not-quite-ex-wife Lexi (Bree Elrod), who wants nothing to do with the good-for-nothing suhmbitch, but allows him to stay until he gets his life together. As is his nature, he then abuses her goodwill by striking up a flirtation with the underage Strawberry (Suzanna Son), who he eventually plans on bringing back to Los Angeles to get him another shot at adult film stardom.
In her review out of the Cannes Film Festival, our gal on the scene Hannah Strong praised Rex as a “compelling motormouth lead, talking himself in and out of trouble.” She went on to add: “…there are some truly riotous moments, and as a character study on how one man’s awfulness permeates across everyone he meets, this is fascinating stuff.”
With his last couple of features Tangerine and The Florida Project, Baker has established himself as one of the pre-eminent chroniclers of American poverty, with a special interest in its intersection with the sex work industry, a trend clearly set to continue here. With humor and pathos, he illustrates that the colorful characters peopling his scuzzier milieus are like anyone else – trying to survive.
Red Rocket comes to cinemas in the US on 3 December. A date for the UK has yet to be set.
Published 5 Oct 2021
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