The story of a former porn actor, back in his native Texas.
Whereas Red Rocket out in theaters today, the film by Sean Baker never ceases to amaze its audience. Presented at the 74th Cannes Film Festival, the feature film is carried by Simon Rex, shining in the role of Mikey Saber, ex-porn actor returning to settle with his ex-wife in his hometown of Texas City. Social criticism, political film or crazy comedy: Red Rocket does not fit in the boxes. A look back at a gutsy film that doesn’t skimp on humor.
Red Rocket: a great political film carried by Simon Rex [critique]
A pure product of Covid-19.
As Sean Baker explains to First in the February issue n°526, “this film was kind of born by accident”. “I had been working on a completely different film for three years, we were going to shoot in Vancouver and there, boom, the pandemic. The borders are closed, everything is falling apart.” Rather than sit idly by, Baker is offered funding to make another film, if he has an idea to work on. He then embarked on another project, smaller, but on which he had been working for almost five years. “I have in the back of my mind the idea of Red Rocketa lower-budget project with a small cast, feasible despite health constraints. Pure product of the Covid, because shot both during the pandemic but also thanks to the pandemic, Red Rocket see the day. And if Simon Rex embodies the main role, it is also because of the Covid-19. “In January 2020, the work was not very flourishing. One day I received a call from Sean, whom I did not know at all. He asked me to recite the few lines of a paragraph he had just given me. to send, and after sending my “audition” he asked me if I could go to Texas in three days. I accepted, and he immediately sent me the script. Seeing the amount of dialogue and nudity, I thought: Shit. But I had nothing else to do, so I went anyway” tells Simon Rex about his meeting with Sean Baker. A hasty meeting, like the shooting of the film: fast, without really preparing for the actors, for whom the first meetings were often sex scenes. “I think my first scene with Suzanna Son [Strawberry dans le film] was a sex scene, so we had to get to know each other really quickly. And then it makes all the other scenes appear easier. Similarly, my first encounter with Bree Elrod, who plays my wife, was also a sex scene. It wasn’t done on purpose, but it helped us to shoot afterwards.” A necessary ease, especially for a film shot on film, which therefore requires precision, although it is composed of 25% improvisation by the actors.
A study of Suitcase Pimps
In addition to its obvious subject on the world of porn, with a mirror effect created compared to Simon Rex (himself a former actor of X films), Red Rocket is intended above all to be a study of American liberalism and the concept of AAmerican Dream through the Suitcase Pimps. “In California, the law allows work in the adult industry to be 18 years old, and not surprisingly, there is a market for young people who have just turned 18, there is a demand, explains Sean Bakerwhich interests Mikey, who hopes to exploit Strawberry and his age once in California.” Because before realizing Red Rocket, Sean Baker was interested for a previous film in porn and discovered an archetype of men, who once left without work become in a way their partner’s manager, and who exploits them by managing their careers. Men who do not represent all men in porn, but who are still very present in the industry. “And by dint of working with them, I understood that they were really ambiguous: they are very charming and funny on the face, I had a great time with them, but every time I thought back to the stories that they were telling me, I had a weird feeling. And I wanted the audience to feel this heartbreak that I could feel.” To represent this tear, Simon Rex had to work on his childish charm, but also create an apathetic character. “This guy had to be fun, that we could like him. Otherwise, he’s just an asshole! Being cute, that I know how to do. On the other hand, the more dramatic scenes, where I had to be vulnerable… the challenge was there, explains Simon Rex to First (#526). A bit of a child, the actor delved into his childhood memories to create Mikey, as well as his imagination and his instincts. And the result is worth it: we don’t really know what to think of Mikey.
The *NSYNC in anthem
Opening up with the music bye bye bye from the boyband *NSYNC, popularized by Justin Timberlake, this anthem of rupture quickly became the anthem of the film. And we owe it to Suzanna Son. “We soon discovered that she was particularly good at singing and playing the piano, so we wrote a scene for her to sing. When looking for a song, we tried all possible songs about the breakup, and finally chose this one, which was the most iconic but also the most expensive. We didn’t have the budget to get the rights at the start of production, so we added the piano scene in post-production, after getting more money to pay the fees.”
But where does it come from? Red Rocket ?
To conclude, it is fun to explain the title of this hybrid production, just like its name. In American slang, Red Rocket does indeed mean many different things, but primarily refers to the erect penis of dogs. “That’s good, Mikey is a kind of dog” for Sean Baker. But in the same way, Strawberry is also a Red Rocket, the joints smoked throughout the film are also “rockets”the trucks too… So many symbols that fuel the feature film and bear witness to its complexity.
Red Rocket, by Sean Baker, with Simon Rex, Suzanna Son, Bree Elrod. In cinemas since February 2. Its trailer: