The movie and TV industry are supersensitive nowadays about any actor (or executive) who is accused of making unwanted sexual advances or inflammatory speeches. In the past few weeks the Networks didn’t wait a single second to fire actor Chris Noth and comedian Jeff Garlin for such inappropriate behavior (at the time of writing Garlin is still denying this).
So it comes as quite a surprise that Filmnation and A24 should bankroll a movie starring Simon Rex whose very explicit video of him pleasing himself was such a viral sensation a few years back. True it seems that no-one had forced Rex to make the video, and there was no one else involved but knowing how squeaky clean and moralistic Hollywood likes to appear to be, it’s a major surprise that Red Rocket was ever made.
It’s a real good thing that it did because this ex MTV Video jock, comedian, nightclub owner and sometime actor Simon Rex parlayed playing an ex-porn star into an Academy Award-worthy performance. In this, Sean Baker’s third major movie that once again deals with the underbelly of society, Rex plays Mickey , who turns up on his ex wife ‘s (who is also his ex-porn scene partner) doorstep of her small shabby home in rural Texas with just $32 in his pocket and the clothes on his back. His career has gone belly up and for some convoluted reasons, he has had to leave L.A. in a big hurry. His only asset is his charm and he knows given enough time he can make himself irrestibile to practically everybody.
He convinces Lexi (Bree Elrod) and her mother (Brenda Deiss) to let him stay, and after failing to get any sort of regular job, he charms his way into selling cannabis for the local lady drug ‘baron”. As he has no alternative Mickey sets to his new role enthusiastically (which is hardly new to him) and starts making money.
His charm offence works on his next-door neighbor who becomes like an unpaid taxi service for the car-less Mickey. And also 17 year old Strawberry (Suzanna Son) who works in the local donut store who inadvertently starts Mickey thinking or re-starting his own career and making her a part of it.
As usual with Baker’s films the plots are not only multi-layered but he never gives any substantial clue as to where the main threads are heading. We sense that as Mickey is a smalltime and smalltown hustler it’s very unlikely that he will not come out of any of his shenanigans smelling of roses
Baker needs to be applauded not just for so succinctly capturing a slice of poor and somewhat hopeless slice of rural life, but for the sheer ingenuity of casting Rex in this role. Nothing in his resume that includes roles in the Scary Movies would ever give one an inkling that he was capable of such a superb perfomance that dared you to never take your eyes off him. He fills the screen and so comfortably steals every scene.
When you read that Rex now reads off the grid at Joshua Tree then maybe he didn’t have to dig far to find the loner inside Mickey, but its still a shock at how very good he is. And how he still looks so great when totally naked!
(Red Rocket is currently in US movie theaters and wil be released in the UK in March 2022