Director Sean Baker is the master of interesting characters

Synopsis: Mikey Saber is a washed-up porn star who returns to his small Texas hometown, not that anyone really wants him back.
Director: Sean Baker
Stars: Simon Rex, Bree Elrod, Suzanna Son

Ever since I saw The Florida Project I knew that every time Sean Baker released a film I was going to see it. The name may not be household, but it should be. The same way Denis Villeneuve is, in my opinion, the best current director using IMAX, there is no other director who seems to connect with the human spirit as well as Baker does.

His films focus on people that other films don’t tend to feature. His film Tangerine, which was shot entirely on an iPhone 5S, focussed on a transgender sex worker. His follow-up was the absolutely beautiful film, The Florida Project, which told the story of a mother and daughter scraping by and trying to survive as they lived a stone’s throw away from Disney World.

His recent film, Red Rocket, focuses on Mikey (Simon Rex) a man who was a big star in the adult-entertainment industry whose career has come to an end and has come back to his hometown.

Baker is great at introducing us to interesting characters and this film is no different. Mikey is used to getting his way and is somewhat surprised when he comes back to this small town and most people don’t care. He takes an interest in a girl named Strawberry (Suzanna Son) working at the local donut shop and he starts to think of a world outside of this small town.

Mikey is a hustler, no question, but what happens when his ability to hustle is stifled because people aren’t excited about what he is selling?

This film has a low-budget feeling to it and why shouldn’t it? During a pandemic, when this was filmed there is nothing that must be expensive about this film. Like his previous films, there are little nuances that Baker adds to his filming style that act as an Easter egg. Any director could have made this film, but it takes someone with the vision of Baker to actually commit to it. Simply put, he dives into stories that others won’t.

While the film doesn’t have a big budget the acting quality and filmmaking are priceless. Simon Rex, in all honesty, should be in the conversation for Best Actor at the Academy Awards. He delivers an outstanding performance of a character trying to survive and thrive after his ‘American Dream’ is shattered.

As we get to witness this relationship develop between Mikey and Strawberry it’s such an interesting exploration of what people do to get ahead.

The supporting cast we meet along the way is not only memorable but a valid representation of the people you would expect to meet in a similar small town.

This is an exceptional film by an exceptional filmmaker.

Grade: A-

Watch the movie trailer