Tag Archives: Sean Baker

Red Rocket (2021)

Independent Film Festival Boston presented Red Rocket at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, MA last night, and before I fawn over Sean Baker’s latest film it’s worth mentioning that it’s damn good to be back. The last film I saw at the Brattle was almost exactly two years ago — The Lighthouse, with director Robert Eggers in-person — and I didn’t quite realize how much I’d missed the comfort of that room. Props to IFFBoston and the Brattle for making that return as safe as possible.

Up on the screen, though, was a homecoming of a decidedly different sort. Red Rocket follows Mikey Saber (Simon Rex), a washed-up L.A. pornstar returning to his impoverished hometown of Texas City. Mikey’s a narcissistic bastard, to put it mildly, sporting a gravitational pull of destruction that threatens his old acquaintances after his 20-year absence. Mikey’s delusions imperil a new relationship, too, when he meets the 17-year-old Strawberry (Suzanna Son). Something about Mikey is undeniably electric, though, and so every new obstacle he faces presents an opportunity for him to redeem himself of his despicable ways. Maybe he’ll do the right thing this time, we think. Maybe he’ll turn it all around.

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Tangerine (2015)

We’ve all been there before: it’s Christmas Eve and you’ve just been released from jail to discover your pimp has been cheating on you so you flip out and hunt him down. It’s a pretty universal conundrum. That was what Pilgrim’s Progress was about, right? Or doesn’t Plato have some allegorical yarn about emerging from a darkened prison, reaching upward toward the light, finally beginning to perceive the true form of reality, and then bitch-slapping your pimp? The Parable of the Donut Shop, I think. Basic universal plots like Rags to Riches, Voyage and Return, The Quest, and Christmas Eve Pimp Hunting have a certain inherent comfort to them because we’ve all been there before.

Tangerine is fresh, though, even if you somehow don’t have a real-life parallel to the above scenario. I’d love to tell you that the freshest thing about it is the story, and admittedly broad aspects of it are rare in modern multiplexes. The primary cast members are transgender and transsexual individuals, led by Kitana Kiki Rodriguez (as Sin-Dee Rella, the newly-freed pimp-hunter) and Mya Taylor (as Alexandra, the Sundance Kid to Sin-Dee’s Butch Cassidy); the film is rounded out by Karren Karagulian’s Razmik, a cabbie with a penchant for rolling the streets where working girls Sin-Dee and Alexandra “ply their trade”. These aren’t your typical heroes, and that sentiment has little to do with their sexuality or gender. These people are the kinds of people that mothers-in-law everywhere are disgusted by, because the activities they engage in seem supremely self-serving, petty, deviant, etc. Indeed, Razmik’s mother-in-law makes all of this explicit when she shows up and harshly disapproves of what she sees.

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