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Review

Red Rocket: American life on the margins

★★★★ A washed-up porn actor returns to his hometown in Sean Baker's Red Rocket

Irreverent humour as well as a sense of optimism. Photo: A24

Set during the 2016 presidential election, Sean Baker’s Red Rocket is the electrifying portrait of another all-American huckster. It follows Mikey (a brilliantly cast Simon Rex), a washed-up porn actor who returns to his hometown of Texas City and the people he left behind, none of whom are particularly enthusiastic to see him.

Like his previous films (Tangerine, The Florida Project), Baker is a master when it comes to portraying American life on the margins without resorting to patronising commentary. Red Rocket is no different, and he brilliantly creates an echo between the self-involved delusions of his bulldozing leading man who believes he can instrumentalise his surroundings to better serve his purposes, and the former occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Not that the tone is all hopeless: from the title to the fantastic repeated use of NSYNC’s ‘Bye Bye Bye’, he injects a solid dose of irreverent humour as well as a sense of optimism, showing us that as bleak as things get, there’s strength to be found when small-town communities stick together and stand defiant.

★★★★

Starts Apr 14 D: Sean Baker (US, 2021), with Simon Rex, Suzanna Son, Bree Elrod.