October 7, 2021

VIFF 2021 | Simon Rex Hustles Hard – 'Red Rocket'

"I would a hundred percent out cardio that guy."
Simon Rex Ethan Darbone Suzanna Son | Sean Baker's Red Rocket | VIFF 2021
Vancouver International Film Festival
VIFF 2021—Filmmaker Sean Baker returns to his usual subject matter of underseen American subcultures of those living on the margins of society while also showcasing possibly the best use of an 'N Sync song maybe ever. Red Rocket is another wildly entertaining and deeply thoughtful exploration of desperate characters presented without judgment or ridicule.

Scary Movie actor/comedian Simon Rex, a former solo pornographic performer himself long ago before becoming an MTV VJ, was certainly inspired casting as a washed-up adult film star (aka "suitcase pimp") back in his hometown of Texas City on the Gulf Coast. He's electric with such a charming dirtbag quality full of narcissism and manipulation in his effortless ability to use other people, particularly lonely but very capable women.

We see extended scenes of Rex's fast-talking Mikey Saber babbling his way out of trouble as he focuses on those he can use and abuse on his way back to Hollywood. He's fantastic acting off both Bree Elrod as Mikey's estranged wife and Suzanna Son as his underaged muse. Elrod and Son present such fascinating portraits of southern women at opposite ends of life being caught up in an intoxicating but bad romance.

Simon Rex Suzanna Son | Sean Baker's Red Rocket | VIFF 2021
A24 / Mongrel Media
Rex is so hypnotic and arresting in a totally realized performance full of interesting twists and turns. He's tasked with executing some truly wild monologues and character interactions done with such assured confidence it could only be a product of our current state of exceptionalist narcissism. His embodiment of a twisted American dream of always scheming and leeching off others for personal gain is spot on. Baker says so much about how this one kind of person can poison an otherwise well-meaning community with such an appealing toxicity.

Baker's eclectic ability to see people and characters from all walks of life existing in front of us and capture their stories in both heartfelt and devastating ways is a remarkable talent. Red Rocket is a very funny takedown of a specific kind of man and the encapsulation of a certain Trumpian brand of charm. His exploration of red state America feels both critically searing yet lovingly told.

Red Rocket screened at the 2021 Vancouver International Film Festival as part of the Contemporary World Cinema series with Baker in attendance. It screens again at the Hollywood Theatre on October 9th.

More | YVArcade / Atlantic / AV Club / Indiewire

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