Red Rocket

Red Rocket ★★★★½

Any hopes of a better America evaporate in a toxic fume of pollution and cheap weed in Sean Baker’s “Red Rocket.” 

In Baker’s version of the USA, wealth is measured by the quality of the facade someone can buy to hide the pervasive shitiness surrounding them. The problem is; most of the country can only afford to build their illusions out of balsa wood and plaster. 

In Baker’s prior work, “Florida Project,” this protective structure for the psyche took the form of the shoddy Kissimmee “Magic Castle” motel; its pastel pink paint job an illusion, but not an allusion to the dead end dreams lived out inside its walls.

In “Red Rocket,” 17-year-old donut salesgirl Strawberry paints her room the same color of pink. Because, she explains, it’s supposed to make you happy. The decorative color choice might as well be the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel to Simon Rex’s struggling LA porn star, Mikey.

Returning home to his chemical factory-adjacent Texas bungalow, Mikey has to spend all his hard-hustled money on a smaller sort of illusion; the sprinkled, pink-frosted donuts served up by Strawberry. 

In Baker’s small town America, every corner is somehow the same and also worse than the one before.

The poor want greener grass, and the rich only want to smoke the grass that the poor are selling. It’s not the grass, though. It’s the freedom.

And as Strawberry smokes from a blunt wrapped in star spangled paper, there could be no more poetic an image of America today; a young girl - empowered by exhaling her hopes and dreams into the chem-waste ether.

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