Red Rocket (2021)


Red Rocket (2021)

Mikey Saber is a washed-up porn star who returns to his small Texas hometown, not that anyone really wants him back                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
IMDb   N/A
Metacritic   78 %
RottenTomatoes  85 %
FilmAffinity   7.0 /10
Director Sean Baker
Writer Sean Baker
Writer Chris Bergoch
Release Date
GenreComedy, Drama
Content Rating

Red Rocket (film)

Red Rocket is a 2021 American comedy-drama film directed by Sean Baker, from a screenplay by Baker and Chris Bergoch. The film stars Simon Rex as Mikey Saber, a washed-up porn star who returns to his small Texas hometown, even though no one there really wants him back.

The film premiered at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival in competition for the Palme d'Or and is scheduled to be released on December 10, 2021, by A24.


  • Simon Rex as Mikey Saber
  • Bree Elrod as Lexi, Mikey's estranged wife
  • Suzanna Son as Strawberry, Mikey's girlfriend
  • Brenda Deiss as Lil, Lexi's mother
  • Judy Hill as Leondria, a local drug supplier
  • Marlon Lambert as Ernesto, Leondria's son and Mikey's former classmate
  • Brittany Rodriguez as June, Leondria's enforcer
  • Ethan Darbone as Lonnie, Lexi's neighbor
  • Shih-Ching Tsou as Ms Phan, Strawberry's boss
  • Parker Bigham as Nash, Strawberry's ex-boyfriend
  • Brandy Kirl as Nash's mom
  • Dustin “Hitman” Hart as Nash's dad


Baker and Bergoch started getting the idea for the Saber character while researching the adult film industry for their film Starlet (2012) when they met a number of men who fit the archetype "suitcase pimp." Baker had Rex in mind five years previous to shooting, but had never introduced himself until, on October 23, 2020, Baker called Rex, convinced him to send an audition tape via iPhone with only five minutes to prepare. Rex then drove to Texas to avoid having to quarantine after a flight for filming to begin three days later. Rex did not tell his agent about the film until shooting was over because Baker asked him to trust him. Baker has "devoted career to tell stories that remove stigma and normalize lifestyles" of sex workers through his films. His choice of Rex, who starred in solo masturbation videos for a gay porn company before establishing himself as a model, MTV VJ, actor and rapper, "fascinated" at least one critic.

Principal photography began on October 26, 2020, and concluded on November 19, 2020, in Texas, United States, during the COVID-19 pandemic, using rigorous safety protocols. Red Rocket was shot on 16 mm film.

Securing the rights to the song "Bye Bye Bye" was not part of the initial budget. All five members of NSYNC had to approve its use.


In February 2021, A24 acquired U.S. distribution rights to the film.

Red Rocket had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on July 14, 2021, where it received a five minute standing ovation. By the end of its run, it will have screened at film festivals in Deauville, Hamburg, London, Mill Valley, Miskolc, New York, Telluride, Rome, San Sebastián and Vancouver among others. In conjunction with Travis Scott's Astroworld Festival and the Houston Cinema Arts Festival, a drive-in screening of Red Rocket was scheduled in Houston on November 8, 2021, featuring appearances by Baker, the film's cast, and Scott. However, in the aftermath of a mass casualty event at his concert the previous Friday, Scott has cancelled the remainder of the festival and refunded all tickets. The film is scheduled to be released on December 10, 2021.

Critical reception

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Red Rocket has an approval rating of 87% based on 46 reviews, with an average rating of 8/10. The site's consensus reads, "Led by Simon Rex's magnetic performance, Red Rocket is another vibrant, ground-level look at modern American life from director/co-writer Sean Baker."

David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter criticizes the film mildly for "prolix stretches", saying "it could have used some tightening. But it's a pleasure to put yourself in Baker's capable hands." Todd McCarthy of Deadline Hollywood writes: "Even before much happens, the sense of a very specific location and cultural mindset is very intense." He praises both Baker and Rex for their "tremendous energy" and says the film "feels as creatively pure as a novel by a kid just out of college." Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian: "With Red Rocket, Sean Baker has given us an adult American pastoral, essentially a comedy, and another study of tough lives at the margin, close in spirit to his lo-fi breakthrough Tangerine." Richard Lawson in Vanity Fair: "Baker's choice is a rather perfect one—in contextual terms and actual ones, too. Rex's performance is fleet and nimble, gregarious and shaded in darkness. He and Baker make staccato music together."

Clayton Davis in Variety says that the "risqué elements" could be a hindrance for award voters but Rex, Baker and Bergoch all deserve Oscar nominations for this film.


AwardDate of CeremonyCategoryRecipient(s)ResultRef
Palm Dog AwardsJuly 16, 2021Jury PrizeSophie the DogWon
Cannes Film FestivalJuly 17, 2021Palme d'OrRed RocketNominated
Deauville American Film FestivalSeptember 11, 2021Prix du JuryWon
Critic's AwardWon
San Sebastián International Film FestivalSeptember 25, 2021City of Donostia Audience AwardNominated
Middleburg Film FestivalOctober 17, 2021Ensemble Spotlight AwardEnsemble CastWon
Mill Valley Film FestivalOctober 9, 2021MVFF AwardSimon RexWon
Film Fest 919October 22, 2021Distinguished Screenwriter AwardSean Baker and Chris BergochWon
Newport Beach Film FestivalOctober 24, 2021Breakout Performance AwardSimon RexWon
SCAD Savannah Film FestivalOctober 26, 2021Spotlight AwardWon
Hamilton Behind the Camera AwardsNovember 13, 2021Producer AwardAlex Coco, Samantha Quan, Alex Saks, and Shih-Ching TsouWon
Gotham AwardsNovember 29, 2021Outstanding Lead PerformanceSimon RexPending
Best ScreenplaySean Baker and Chris BergochPending
Breakthrough PerformerSusanna SonPending