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Red Rocket (2021)

Reggie W

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Title: Red Rocket (2021)

Tagline: Everything’s bigger in Texas.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Director: Sean Baker

Cast: Simon Rex, Bree Elrod, Suzanna Son, Brenda Deiss, Sophie, Vickie Pearce, Bashir Abboud, Kevin Cavanaugh, Caressa Garza, Marlon Lambert, Judy Hill, Brittney Rodriguez, Melary Jones, Najeeb Hassan, Leigh Ann Welch, Debra Johnson, Ethan Darbone, Alex Michell, Curt Smith, Shih-Ching Tsou, Andrew Carter, Stanley Buffington, Daniel Gonzalez, Robert Gonzales, Zachary Kemp, Efrain Avendaño, Shawn Harper, David Maxwell, Nate Venz, Anthony Carvelli, Parker Bigham, Brandy Kirl, Dustin Hart, Allison Fuller, Dimitri Manetas, Roza Kastis, Alayna Polk, Karren Karagulian, Darinda Fuller, Lindsey Fuller, Elisa Silva, Gary Fuller, Seward B. Lott, Mason Shortland

Release: 2021-12-03

Runtime: 130

Plot: Finding himself down and out in Los Angeles, ex porn star Mikey Saber decides to crawl back to his hometown of Texas City, Texas, where his estranged wife and mother-in-law are living. Just as this dysfunctional family seems to be making things work, Mikey meets a young woman named Strawberry working the cash register at a local doughnut shop.

 

Reggie W

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Here's one that seems not to have been mentioned much around here. Easily could have been nominated for Best Picture and Simon Rex for Best Actor (he would not have slapped anybody at the ceremony, ha!) but content wise...well...probably a bit too inappropriate to win anything.

This one is about a 50 something male porn star that after a long career, washes out of the business and returns to his hometown to try to move back in with his estranged wife (also a former porn star), because he is without finances and options. While back in town he meets a 17 year old girl that works at the local doughnut shop and begins to try to groom her to become his sex partner and potentially get her into doing porn as his ticket back into the business.

This is one of those looks at oddballs living on the fringe of our society. Rex is fantastic as the self-obsessed down on his luck porn star that brazenly and hilariously sets about using, or attempting to use, everybody he comes into contact with. He is surrounded by a cast of unknown faces, some actors, some non-actors the director found that lived in the area where they were shooting, that are all fantastic in their roles.

Sean Baker, the director, and his DP shot this on 16mm which gives it a grainy look and sort of 1970s feel, though it takes place in the present day, and set it in an alternately candy colored and run down industrial South Texas.

This would be one of my choices of best films of the year. Wonderfully acted, beautiful to look at, and pretty damn funny.

I highly recommend checking it out but if you had an issue with Licorice Pizza and the relationship between a 15 and 25 year old where nothing really happens between them...this one leaves nothing to the imagination in terms of what happens between the 17 and 50 something year old.

Great film.
 
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Reggie W

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I should point out that the video in the first post is not a trailer, it is actually the first 5 minutes of the film. So, if you watch that and it grabs you, you should check out the whole film.
 

titch

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Total indifference on this website - one dismissive review on the announcement thread


Actually, it's extremely good. I have both Sean Baker's previous films, Tangerine and The Florida Project. Those really stood out as ground-breaking American indie films (Tangerine was filmed on an iPhone) and Red Rocket received superb reviews over here in Europe.


Sean Baker makes films about Americans, who no-one else really cares about. Poor, uneducated, hustlers. And he uses non-professional actors, who give amazing performances. It's impossible to stop watching the protagonist in Red Rocket - every performance in the film is so natural, it's like watching a documentary. The picture quality on the blu-ray is excellent - the colours are really pushed and give the whole atmosphere a kind of unreal feeling. It's also really funny. Can also point out that the blu-ray has two good commentary tracks, as well.
 

TravisR

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Total indifference on this website - one dismissive review on the announcement thread.
I would have seen this but the problem is that it didn't play around me AND there's two art houses in my area. And yet both of those art houses both played Spider-Man. Times are tough for theaters- especially small theaters- and they need to play big movies to stay afloat but it's an embarrassment that they played a major studio feature and couldn't devote a screen or at least a couple of shows a week to this movie. It's not like this is a self-distributed movie made on an iPhone or something, it's from A24 who have carved a solid niche for themselves especially with an art house crowd. Every time that a major director knocks franchise movies (and then gets knocked by the franchise's fans as being an out-of-touch old man), the smaller movie getting lost in the shuffle is exactly what they're referring to.
 

Reggie W

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Total indifference on this website - one dismissive review on the announcement thread


Actually, it's extremely good. I have both Sean Baker's previous films, Tangerine and The Florida Project. Those really stood out as ground-breaking American indie films (Tangerine was filmed on an iPhone) and Red Rocket received superb reviews over here in Europe.


Sean Baker makes films about Americans, who no-one else really cares about. Poor, uneducated, hustlers. And he uses non-professional actors, who give amazing performances. It's impossible to stop watching the protagonist in Red Rocket - every performance in the film is so natural, it's like watching a documentary. The picture quality on the blu-ray is excellent - the colours are really pushed and give the whole atmosphere a kind of unreal feeling. It's also really funny. Can also point out that the blu-ray has two good commentary tracks, as well.

Well, I guess because it is an oddball comedy about what a lot of people would call "inappropriate" subject matter, it probably won't be for everyone. The way Baker treats his story and characters are without judgement as well and this will probably bother some viewers as they won't find a 50 something porn actor hitting on a 17 year old girl amusing in any way.

Honestly, some people probably will feel this film is offensive and in today's world...well...you are not allowed to offend anybody. Which seems as ridiculous as it is impossible. That makes this picture somewhat of a unicorn in that it exists at all. I can't imagine most people in a pitch meeting for this going "Oh, yeah let's make that!"

Mr. Baker is obviously a natural filmmaker in every sense. He knows how to capture characters and moments in ways a lot of filmmakers don't.

I laughed a lot watching this but my guess is some folks will not find this funny.
 

titch

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I laughed a lot watching this but my guess is some folks will not find this funny.
Well, if anyone doesn't find the sight of the ageing porn star, high-tailing it, stark naked down the street - after being thrown out of a bedroom - absolutely hilarious, then they probably don't laugh at anything.

Great interview with Simon Rex in The Guardian, by the way.

 

Walter Kittel

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And here I thought it was related to Fallout 4. Never mind. :)

I am sure I'll give this a try at some point. I was looking at the Blu-Ray reviews on amazon and polarizing is the word that comes to mind.

- Walter.
 

Reggie W

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Well, if anyone doesn't find the sight of the ageing porn star, high-tailing it, stark naked down the street - after being thrown out of a bedroom - absolutely hilarious, then they probably don't laugh at anything.

Great interview with Simon Rex in The Guardian, by the way.


Well, yes, and I found the scene where he describes why he deserved the award for "Best Oral" pretty damn hilarious and off the wall as well. Just really excellent acting and writing.
 

Reggie W

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I hadn't heard of this film before reading this thread. I've watched the trailer and Mark Kermode's review but I think my life is simply too short for this project.

It really depends on what you enjoy in a film. I mean as good as I think this picture is, I would not just recommend it to everyone based on the subject matter and the current "sensitivity" level the world exists at right now when it comes to certain things.

I love a film called Drugstore Cowboy, brilliant picture about a group of drug addict criminals living on the fringe of society. This picture reminded me of that in many ways. How it is shot, the down and out and absurd lifestyle of the characters, and the nutty situations they all end up in. It also reminded me of another film I loved called Miami Blues, where you have this sleazy but charismatic character at the center of things, doing things that are obviously wrong, but it is funny.

Pictures that present bad characters doing things to entertain us are much more frowned upon now. Taxi Driver anyone? It is much more preferred these days that you clearly show who is good or bad and make sure the characters are judged in the film. So, it is clearly stated "You can watch this character but you cannot root for this character."

They do not do that here and the audience is left to fend for itself. I think this does not really work now in a lot of ways because today's audience is no longer capable of doing this much of the time. What social media has done is made everything something people feel they must judge and give their opinion on whether it is right or wrong...then in turn judge the people that disagree with them.

So, in a film like this where the central character is obviously a bad guy but the film does not specifically have other characters pointing that out, well, the audience ends up feeling they have to point it out...and then probably point out that everybody that likes a picture like this is also probably reprehensible.

I would call this really good filmmaking. Not sure really good filmmaking is what people want anymore.
 

Reggie W

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I would point out too, this is not a DeNiro Bad Grandpa type film, it is much more a Drugstore Cowboy or Miami Blues type of film. The comedy here comes out of the way these people live and exist.
 

Reggie W

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And here I thought it was related to Fallout 4. Never mind. :)

I am sure I'll give this a try at some point. I was looking at the Blu-Ray reviews on amazon and polarizing is the word that comes to mind.

- Walter.

I've not delved into reviews of this yet. But I am curious to do so. After seeing the mixed reactions to Licorice Pizza, primarily related to the age gap between the two leads, I am wondering what the reaction people will have to this film will be. I mean a 50 something guy and a 17 year old girl in a full on sexual relationship is pretty much way, way beyond anything in Licorice Pizza.

Also, in Licorice Pizza the characters do actually love and care about each other whereas in this film the relationships are far more questionable.

I think it is popular now to present openly how horribly offended you are about something and to try to shame others that will not do the same.

This picture, to me, does nothing new, it just takes the "antihero" approach as did so many other films of the past. This is a far more polarizing thing to do now though because some people seem to fail to grasp the idea that in a movie you can present character and story that do all kinds of things...that's called creativity...this does not mean you support that behavior or would do it yourself.

Not sure how we lost that perspective as a society.

This is a really good film if you like pictures like Miami Blues or Drugstore Cowboy or films of that nature that take oddball, perhaps lowlife or sleazy characters, and present them to you as is, without judging them and allow you to think, laugh, feel, whatever you will without telling how you should be thinking, laughing, feeling.
 

Walter Kittel

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Well, I've been a fan of Miami Blues since my first theatrical showing so many years ago. Baldwin was definitely a piece of work in that film. So comparisons between that film and Red Rocket intrigue me. Sort of reminds me of a guy I knew at work a long, long time ago. He was kind of a dick, but as long as you weren't the target of his actions he was pretty fun to be around. ( Obviously to a much smaller degree vs. Baldwin in Miami Blues, but similar principles apply. ) As an aside, I am really looking forward to the Blu-Ray release of Licorice Pizza.

I certainly agree with the notion that displaying something is not an implicit endorsement. If you can't use objectionable actions to criticize said actions then I feel like you are really limiting the palette of artists.

- Walter.
 

TravisR

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I've not delved into reviews of this yet. But I am curious to do so. After seeing the mixed reactions to Licorice Pizza, primarily related to the age gap between the two leads, I am wondering what the reaction people will have to this film will be. I mean a 50 something guy and a 17 year old girl in a full on sexual relationship is pretty much way, way beyond anything in Licorice Pizza.
I think the difference is that P.T. Anderson and Licorice Pizza were way more high profile than Sean Baker and Red Rocket. Red Rocket was largely unnoticed even by social media film critics/writers but if it had gotten Oscar nominations, I'd have bet the farm that there'd have been a similar backlash to its content.
 

Reggie W

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Well, I've been a fan of Miami Blues since my first theatrical showing so many years ago. Baldwin was definitely a piece of work in that film. So comparisons between that film and Red Rocket intrigue me. Sort of reminds me of a guy I knew at work a long, long time ago. He was kind of a dick, but as long as you weren't the target of his actions he was pretty fun to be around. ( Obviously to a much smaller degree vs. Baldwin in Miami Blues, but similar principles apply. ) As an aside, I am really looking forward to the Blu-Ray release of Licorice Pizza.

I certainly agree with the notion that displaying something is not an implicit endorsement. If you can't use objectionable actions to criticize said actions then I feel like you are really limiting the palette of artists.

- Walter.

Well, I had never seen nor heard of Simon Rex but he gives a very Alec Baldwin type performance as a charming a-hole that is out to benefit himself in whatever way he can. It is a pretty great performance and probably should have landed him a Best Actor nomination. I doubt in this time they would give him that award based on the character he is playing but his was one of the best performances I saw from 2021. He nails this guy and yes, it is kind of like "Am I watching acting or is this guy just like this?"

I think if you enjoyed the type of story Miami Blues was, you will likely really get a kick out of this. It does not present the same type of story where Baldwin's character is on a crime spree and Fred Ward is trying to track him down but you get the same sort of atmosphere and odd characters interacting and doing things that are obviously wrong but everybody is trying to get by in whatever way they can.

I have to admit too that I love when a director can use non-professional actors in such an effective way. It just brings the atmosphere of the picture up several notches.
 

TravisR

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Well, I had never seen nor heard of Simon Rex...
I think his biggest gig was as an MTV VJ in the late 90's.


I have to admit too that I love when a director can use non-professional actors in such an effective way. It just brings the atmosphere of the picture up several notches.
That's the kind of thing that helped lend an air of reality to TV shows like The Wire and Treme. The main and supporting cast on those shows were professionals but the small roles were just real people from Baltimore and New Orleans and it was great.
 

Reggie W

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I think the difference is that P.T. Anderson and Licorice Pizza were way more high profile than Sean Baker and Red Rocket. Red Rocket was largely unnoticed even by social media film critics/writers but if it had gotten Oscar nominations, I'd have bet the farm that there'd have been a similar backlash to its content.

I know PTA is pretty high profile but I thought Sean Baker was notable because his picture The Florida Project had been nominated. I wondered if the lack of internet chatter on this film had to do with the subject matter. I mean, I can obviously see this story and these characters being seen as all kinds of wrong. So, I wondered if the fact it was not talked about or mentioned much had to do with that.

I mean, I think it was an awards worthy film in a variety of ways but figured the Oscars would not touch it because they prefer to give awards to pictures that celebrate things that are not controversial.
 
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Jeffrey D

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Here's one that seems not to have been mentioned much around here. Easily could have been nominated for Best Picture and Simon Rex for Best Actor (he would not have slapped anybody at the ceremony, ha!) but content wise...well...probably a bit too inappropriate to win anything.

This one is about a 50 something male porn star that after a long career, washes out of the business and returns to his hometown to try to move back in with his estranged wife (also a former porn star), because he is without finances and options. While back in town he meets a 17 year old girl that works at the local doughnut shop and begins to try to groom her to become his sex partner and potentially get her into doing porn as his ticket back into the business.

This is one of those looks at oddballs living on the fringe of our society. Rex is fantastic as the self-obsessed down on his luck porn star that brazenly and hilariously sets about using, or attempting to use, everybody he comes into contact with. He is surrounded by a cast of unknown faces, some actors, some non-actors the director found that lived in the area where they were shooting, that are all fantastic in their roles.

Sean Baker, the director, and his DP shot this on 16mm which gives it a grainy look and sort of 1970s feel, though it takes place in the present day, and set it in an alternately candy colored and run down industrial South Texas.

This would be one of my choices of best films of the year. Wonderfully acted, beautiful to look at, and pretty damn funny.

I highly recommend checking it out but if you had an issue with Licorice Pizza and the relationship between a 15 and 25 year old where nothing really happens between them...this one leaves nothing to the imagination in terms of what happens between the 17 and 50 something year old.

Great film.
Just ordered the BluRay from Amazon. Will give an opinion when I watch it. I do have a like for fringe type films, and if this film goes against the grain of today’s pounce society, all the better. Thanks, Reggie.
 

Reggie W

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I think his biggest gig was as an MTV VJ in the late 90's.

I looked up his IMDB page and he seems to have a lot of credits in things I have never heard of and did some TV episode work as well. I would say Red Rocket looks like his biggest and best work. It looks like he has already made about 4 other films that will be getting released in the near future but I don't know much about them. He seems like he deserves to land some jobs off of Red Rocket. You give a performance like that and it should get you work.
 
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