Red Rocket

Red Rocket ★★★★★

A film about a delusional, lying, self-obsessed grifter set during the 2016 election is gloriously entertaining, and isn’t that the problem? Mikey Saber’s behaviour is either tolerated, or even encouraged, because he’s compelling and convincing, even to the people that know who he actually is. He sticks like gum on people’s shoes because his entitlement, and how society has encouraged this sort of desperate drive towards upward mobility at all costs, is acceptable. I mean, he literally comes from a male-dominated porn industry that gives out Porn Awards to the MAN for “Best Head,” why would he not believe that he, and other people that look like him, were put on this world to shape and manipulate it to their will? Why wouldn’t he see Strawberry as merely an opportunity to get his career back on track? This is a despicable man, but in a sort of casual sense, like you can’t see it at first or until you see both the picture and the frame, which very few people in his life would because he’s so good at keeping all his personas separate.

A terrible man but, like I said, a truly compelling and very funny film. There’s a reason the media covered Trump so extensively in 2016 - he was good TV. Mikey is the same for the people he interacts with. He’s so convincing and loud and confident that he envelops everything, and it becomes easier to put up with him, normalise his behaviour, than do anything about it. And any comeuppance he gets is counteracted by the fact that the world will always welcome him back, his tactics and tricks will always work. The saddest shot might be when Strawberry plays the piano, and the camera zooms in on Mikey. Will he realise that he’s manipulating a soulful + talented child who doesn’t fully understand the full extent of how the world will take advantage of her? No, just smile and clap. This is a man with no self-consciousness at all - think of all the stuff he does, yet he chastises his friend for pretending to be a veteran? - he’s completely convinced of his own greatness. Not a good attitude to have, arguably a dangerous one, and yet, I wonder what that is like.

Despite Mikey overwhelming the film, I did actually truly enjoy living in this world of small town Texas. The beautiful dusky aesthetic, man-made lights igniting the sky, absorbing the natural dark, and how buildings like Donut Hole seem to just exist on their own with barely anything else nearby. This is what I’ve always found so fascinating about America, that it has an abundance of space, it's so huge you can get lost in it. Buildings get built and there’s huge amounts of excess left over. I see those blimp shots of American stadiums and see gigantic carparks surround them, something unheard of over here. In some ways I feel like that creates a sense that nothing someone like Mikey does really matters, because everything feels so small in the grand scheme of things. Nothing happening in this small Texas town feels truly connected to reality. And yet as we see with the snippets of TVs on in the background, the political billboards, as well as the constant pollution Mikey bikes past, all this adds up. What’s that quote about how the devil would hide in plain sight by gradually making everything just a little bit worse?

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