The American Dream is more like the American Scream in the cinematic world of Sean Baker, whose movies Tangerine and The Florida Project mark him out as one of the most exciting auteurs working today. His latest once again immerses us in an America full of juxtapositions, sex work and donuts.
Red Rocket is an engrossing state-of-the-nation comedy designed to make us feel so dirty that no amount of washing will remove the sweat from our nether parts. Did we really just feel affection for manchild Saber (Simon Rex) grooming 17-year-old Strawberry (Suzanna Son) to be a porn star, his ticket out of terrible Texas and back to Hollywood? Does it make a difference that she's savvy and wants to take advantage of the fact that sex sells, as it’s better than working in a donut shop? Is sell-ebrity the only way to get ahead in an Insta world?
It’s 2016, and on the television set Trump is battling Hillary on the campaign trail. Man versus woman. Good versus evil. Or a contest where no matter the victor, not much will change for the poor. And poor is one thing down-on-his-luck former award-winning porn star Saber doesn't want to be. Yet here he is, begging his estranged wife Lexi (Bree Elrod) and mother-in-law (Brenda Deiss) for a spot on the couch, promising to get a job and pay some rent.
Red Rocket immerses us in an America full of juxtapositions, sex work and donuts
It’s soon apparent that promises are not something that narcissist Saber keeps. A fantasist, everything in his life resembles a sitcom, even his burgeoning romance with a way-too-young shop attendant. But for him, the age gap is no problem as she’s ‘legal like an eagle’. The romance is electrifying and full of wry, comic moments. He’s got Pee-wee Herman qualities, while she’s our Marilyn Monroe.
They're a fun couple, and it's entertaining, so no need to worry about the morality, bravado and lies in the increasingly blurred lines between myth and reality. Has Baker cooked up a movie about #MeToo without making an issue movie? Yes, yes, yes, and yes is the orgasmic response, before the thought crosses your mind that you’ve just slept with the enemy.
In UK cinemas Mar 11.