FNE at Cannes 2021: Competition: Red Rocket

    Red Rocket by Sean Baker Red Rocket by Sean Baker copyright: Drew Daniels

    CANNES: Writer and director Sean Baker scores a slot in the main Cannes competition lineup with a film described as raw and funny.  His earlier successful films The Florida Project and Tangerine, a transgender movie, have made Red Rocket a much anticipated followup.

    The film is about a small time hustler Mikey Saber played by Simon Rex, who is a charismatic loser. He is a porn film star and he returns to his hometown where he is trying to score with darkly funny results. Sean Baker is always humane in his approach to his character even if they do not have much to recommend them. The script was written by Sean Baker and his regular co-author Chris Bergoch. Baker has brought on board for the first time cinematographer Drew Daniels, who is well known for his stunning work on films like Waves by Trey Edward Shults.

    The backdrop of the film is the 2016 presidential primary elections and there is no doubt that Texas City is Trump territory. The film was shot up and down the Texas Gulf coast in the Galveston area where there are oil refineries among the suburbs.

    Sean Baker spoke about why he chose Texas City as the setting for his film. He said “I was drawn to the Gulf Coast and I wanted to use this as the backdrop to the film. So producer Alex Coco and I took an initial drive along the coast and when we got to Texas City we knew we had found it. Texas City calls itself the all American city and also the city that cannot die. Texas City and the surrounding area became a character in the film. I was also influenced by the documentary The Other Side, which had an amazing impact on me. It was shot in 2016 in the Trump pre-election period and the pools told us that Trump was not going to win. I thought that was a fascinating place in terms of where to place my film.”

    Actor Simon Rex who plays the hustler and loser Mikey said “Sean let us improvise a lot in addition to what was on the page. He let us have that freedom and that’s really rare.”

    Baker said "I have incredible actors which is why could do that. We were shooting at real locations mixing professional actors with first tmers, allowing happy accidents into the film, what I would call hybrid moments. And we let as many of these stay in the film as possible.”

    Simon Rex talked about his character who he said he played as a likeable asshole but one that was nonetheless unredeemable. The film has many intimate sex scenes. Bree Elrod who plays a former porn actress said she watched a lot of porn to prepare for the rolls and that she wanted to honour the profession. Suzanna Son plays Strawberry, the young newcomer to the porn film world that Mikey is falling in love with. Overall Baker said that he is fascinated by the segment of society that is seldom shown or represented and the film looks at that.


    Red Rocket (USA)
    Director: Sean Baker

    Cast: Simon Rex, Suzanna Son, Brenda Deiss, Ethan Darbone, Judy Hill, Brittney Rodriguez, Bree Elrod