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VAX ONLY: Red Rocket

Dir. Sean Baker USA 128 min

2021 A24

FROM OUR ARTISTIC DIRECTOR

In Red Rocket, director Sean Baker has built one of the best and most memorable film characters in recent years. Mikey Saber, played by a pitch perfect Simon Rex, is a narcissistic charmer. Having ruined lives and relationships seemingly everywhere, when he returns home to Texas City, Mikey is set on only sticking around until he can stage a comeback in the porn industry. Why or how he ended up back home after his self-touted success is unclear, and as he runs his mouth a mile a minute, Mikey’s own narrative becomes more convoluted. His ex-wife sees through him, his mother-in-law admonishes him, but young donut salesgirl Strawberry is lured into his trap.

Mikey is a character that stage actors would scramble to interpret. With layers of depth beneath his charming and funny persona, Mikey can only be portrayed by someone with undeniable star power like Rex. As an examination of the toxic men that use their charm and any degree of quasi-fame to swindle the people around them, the film is also timely. We might know someone like Mikey, and that makes the stakes of the film very high. Red Rocket is one of the most real portrayals of scumbaggery in recent years, and to be honest, I’m not mad at it. — Diana Martinez, PhD

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