Review: ‘Mack & Rita,’ starring Diane Keaton, Taylour Paige and Elizabeth Lail

August 12, 2022

by Carla Hay

Diane Keaton in “Mack & Rita” (Photo courtesy of Gravitas Premiere)

“Mack & Rita”

Directed by Katie Aselton

Culture Representation: Taking place in the California cities of Los Angeles and Palm Springs, the comedy film “Mack & Rita” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans, Asians and Latin people) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A 30-year-old woman, who feels older than most of her peers, wishes that she were just like her beloved and now-deceased grandmother, and she’s shocked when her wish comes true, and she physically becomes a woman in her 70s. 

Culture Audience: “Mack & Rita” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of star Diane Keaton and don’t mind seeing terrible movies that insult viewers’ intelligence and make the cast members look like idiots.

Taylour Paige in “Mack & Rita” (Photo courtesy of Gravitas Premiere)

Diane Keaton, please do not allow anyone to talk you into doing embarrassing garbage movies like “Mack & Rita” ever again. If anyone has the misfortune of watching this pathetic excuse for a comedy film, be warned that it is less likely to make you laugh and more likely to make you sad and maybe a little angry that this is the type of moronic junk that Oscar-winning acting legend Keaton has been reduced to doing. And to make matters worse, Keaton is one of the producers of “Mack & Rita,” so she sunk her some of her own money into helping make this atrocious flop.

“Mack & Rita” is supposed to be a female empowerment film. It’s supposed to be a comedy film that’s funny. But just because a woman (Katie Aselton) directed “Mack & Rita,” and just because a woman (Madeline Walter) co-wrote the screenplay doesn’t automatically make this train wreck any good. (Walter wrote the “Mack & Rita” screenplay with Paul Welsh.) In fact, “Mack & Rita” is such an abomination that makes women in the movie look so flaky and ditsy, it’s the opposite of a female empowerment film.

“Mack & Rita” is the third feature film directed by Aselton, who is probably best known to movie audiences as an actress in movies and TV. Her credits as an actress include supporting roles in movies such as 2019’s “Bombshell” and 2018’s “Book Club.” She previously directed and starred in the 2013 horror flick “Black Rock,” an independent film (written by her husband, Mark Duplass) that got mixed reviews. Aselton’s feature-film directorial debut was 2010’s “The Freebie,” a mediocre and lightweight comedy that she wrote. Aselton and Dax Shepard co-starred in “The Freebie” as a married couple allowing each other one night of infidelity. In other words, Aselton has been on plenty of film sets to know better than to dump the trashy “Mack & Rita” into the world.

Comedies about body switches or body transformations need to have cast members with authentic-looking chemistry, in order to make the movies work well. On top of that, even if the story involves sci-fi or fantasy, at least some part of it has to be believable, starting with the way that the characters react to this body change. Unfortunately, “Mack & Rita” fails in every bare minimum of these requirements.

“Mack and Rita” also does a lot of unappealing perpetuating of negative stereotypes of women over the age of 70, by making it look like women in this age group have sex appeal that shrivels up like wrinkled skin. Except for the character played by Keaton, all of the senior citizen women who are supporting characters in “Mack & Rita” just sit around, guzzle wine, and gossip about other people’s love lives, but they don’t have love lives of their own. And when the character played by Keaton does have some romance, it’s played for cringeworthy laughs because (gasp!) she kisses a man who’s young enough to be her son.

“Mack & Rita” has an odd mix of talented cast members and not-so-talented cast members that make their scenes together very hard to watch. The opening scene of the movie shows a quick montage flashback of lead character Mackenzie “Mack” Martin as a 9-year-old (played by Molly Duplass, daughter of Aselton and Mark Duplass) being raised by her sassy grandmother, who’s only given the name Grammie Martin (played by Catherine Carlen) in the movie. It’s explained later that Mack’s parents are deceased. Mack was very close to Grammie Martin, who died sometime when Mack became an adult. Mack admired her grandmother’s confidence and still wishes that she could be more like her.

Mack has now grown up to be a 30-year-old bachelorette writer (played by Elizabeth Lail) living in a Los Angeles apartment building with her dog Cheese. Her only book so far (a collection of personal essays about her grandmother) was a modest hit, but Mack hasn’t had much luck getting a publishing deal for her second book. In the meantime, Mack’s abrasive and snobby agent Stephanie (played by Patti Harrison) has been pushing Mack to become a social media influencer who gets paid for endorsing products and services. Stephanie sneers to Mack in a phone conversation: “Remember, if you’re not getting paid for something, it’s a hobby. And hobbies are disgusting.”

The adult Mack explains in a voiceover: “I grew up always feeling like I was an older woman trapped in the body of a little girl. I think that’s why I was so found of the term ‘old gal.” I was raised by my grandma, who was the coolest ‘old gal’ I ever knew. She would say, ‘Well, that’s because I’m old. I’ve got less time to live, so I’ve got less flips to give.” Get used to the cringeworthy talk in “Mack & Rita,” because this horrible movie is full of it.

Mack continues in her voiceover: “All I wanted was to be like Grammie Martin, but like any kid, I had to fit in. Over the years, I had to hide what I thought was cool. And you know what? It worked pretty well … I did my darndest to keep my inner old gal to myself.”

The movie then rushes through an explanation that Mack will soon be going to Palm Springs for the weekend to attend the bachelorette party of her best friend Carla (played by Taylour Paige), in a house lent to them by a friend of Carla’s mother Sharon (played by Loretta Devine). Before she leaves for her trip, Mack meets with her bachelor next-door neighbor Jack (played by Dustin Milligan), a private wealth manager who’s also 30 years old. Jack has agreed to be the dogsitter for Cheese while Mack is away for the weekend in Palm Springs. (As soon as you see Jack on screen, it’s obvious he will be Mack’s love interest.)

Mack and Jack exchange some awkward small talk because they’re both attracted to each other but don’t want to come right out and say it. He asks her if she would like to go skateboarding with him sometime. Mack politely declines. “Mack & Rita” tells no details about Mack’s previous dating experiences, but the movie repeatedly implies that because Mack wants to be just like her grandmother, she thinks that means she has to live life like the worst stereotype of a boring old lady.

One of the most annoying things about “Mack & Rita” is that it makes people who are supposed to be in their 30s act like they have the emotional maturity of teenagers who are still in high school. There’s Jack and his semi-obsession with skateboarding and expecting women who date him to be interested in skateboarding too. And later, when Mack meets up with Carla and their two airhead bachelorette friends Sunita (played by Aimee Carrero) and Molly (played by Lauren Beveridge), this arrested development in emotional maturity is also on full display.

Mack tells Carla, Sunita and Molly about turning down Jack’s invitation for a skateboarding date. Mack says that this rejection is because she’s afraid that Jack could be a Lothario. It’s an example of Mack being paranoid about dating, because Jack has not shown any indication that he’s a jerk or a creep.

Sunita and Molly then repeatedly ask Mack what a Lothario is. Mack has trouble explaining it to them until she uses the word “player.” Apparently, the “Mack & Rita” filmmakers want people to equate “vocabulary intelligence” with “mentality of a boring old lady,” and that the average 30-year-old woman can’t possibly know what the word Lothario means.

Sunita and Molly are self-absorbed, yammering characters whose personalities are indistinguishable from one another. Molly and Sunita only seem to care about what they see and post about themselves on social media. Carla is portrayed as a loyal and accepting friend who tries to give Mack more confidence and a lot of understanding.

However, Carla’s patience is tested when the “body transformation” happens to Mack, who ends up becoming a popular social media influencer in her new “old woman” body, and Mack becomes an unreliable friend. This information was already revealed in the “Mack & Rita” trailer. You know a movie is bottom-of-the-barrel rubbish when there’s nothing salvagable that can be edited to make the movie’s trailer look interesting.

While the four gal pals are hanging out at a restaurant for lunch, Mack sees two elderly woman dining together at a nearby outdoor cafe. Mack says that she envies how life seems to be so simple for these senior citizens because these old women know who they are and what they want. Mind you, Mack knows nothing about these women or what their conversation is about, so she really has no idea if these women are as happy or as confident as she assumes they are. Mack has a weird fixation on thinking that women of retirement age are supposed to be happier than any other women just because elderly women have lived that long and are old enough to retire. It’s a very misguided and ignorant over-simplication of women.

Mack tells Carla when Mack points out the two elderly women having lunch together: “I want to be like them: just sitting around and falling asleep until someone shakes me awake.” What a condescending and ageist perception of elderly women. “Mack & Rita” repeatedly pounds this negative stereotype that women over the age of 70 are supposed to be boring, and then uses this unflattering perception as a flimsy plot device that’s not only stupid but it’s also offensive. The entire terrible premise of “Mack & Rita” is that any woman over the age of 70 who is not boring is the exception and probably does things that deserve to have people laughing at her because she’s supposed to be “too old” to do those things.

Mack’s body transformation happens as body transformations do in dimwitted and lazy movies: by a force of nature that is never explained in the movie. Mack sees a pop-up tent near the restaurant. The tent is advertising New Age type of services with the slogan “Regress and be blessed” written on a makeshift sign.

Out of curiosity, Mack goes in the tent and finds a spaced-out wannabe guru named Luka (played by Simon Rex, in an awful, hammy performance), who tells her to lie down in a run-down-looking tanning bed and think of any wish that she wants to come true. Mack wishes exactly what you think she wishes: “I want to be Grammie Martin!” Mack also shouts, “I’m a 70-year-old woman trapped in a body of a 30-year-old who just needs a minute to rest!”

Wind gusts suddenly appear in the tanning bed like a mini-tornado. And when Mack emerges from the tanning bed, she’s horrified to see that she now looks like an elderly version of herself (played by Keaton), so the expected hysterical skrieking ensues. Luka suddenly is nowhere to be found to change Mack back into her “normal” self. Luka’s disappearance is just the movie’s way of stretching out the excruciatingly bad scenarios that Mack experiences as the elderly version of herself.

While still adjusting to the shock of her body transformation, Mack shows up at the borrowed house in Palm Springs, where Carla predictably thinks Mack is an intruder. But once Mack proves to Carla that she really is Mack—just trapped in a 70-year-old body—Carla easily accepts everything like it’s not that big of a deal. “Mack & Rita” is so poorly written, the bachelorette party is never shown, and Carla is never seen having a conversation with her groom-to-be (whose name is never mentioned in the movie), even though there’s a plot development involving the wedding rehearsal dinner. The groom is never seen talking and has a brief “blink and you’ll miss it” appearance where he’s seen with Carla in a car.

Expect to see a silly montage of Carla and “elderly” Mack doing various things to try to make Mack look younger, such as going to a rigorous fitness trainer (just an excuse to put Keaton and her stunt double in awkward physical positions) or beauty salons, as if putting on some skin cream will somehow make Mack look younger. And there are the usual pratfalls and “I’m too old for this” clumsiness from “elderly” Mack, because the movie wants to make it hilarious to laugh at elderly people who might have physical limitations. It’s all so witless and tiresome.

In one of the movie’s worst scenes, “elderly” Mack takes Carla’s advice to drink psychedelic mushrooms with some tea. It leads to a very unfunny scenario of Mack hallucinating, with very cheap-looking visual effects used in the movie. Mack’s hallucinations include thinking that her dog is talking to her. Martin Short is the voice of the dog in this scene. It’s a good thing that Short isn’t on camera, thereby sparing him the humiliation of being seen in this horrendous dreck.

And who exactly is the “Rita” in “Mack & Rita”? When “elderly” Mack goes back to her apartment, she lies to Jack and says that she is Mack’s aunt Rita. The lie is that Rita (who lives in Scottsdale, Arizona) and Mack decided to do an apartment exchange while Mack is in Scottsdale for a writer’s retreat. Jack is a little taken by surprise by Rita, but because he doesn’t know Mack and her family very well, he easily believes this lie.

It’s the same lie that’s told to Carla’s outspoken and meddling mother Sharon and Sharon’s three nosy best friends: cranky Betty (played by Lois Smith), jolly Carol (played by Amy Hill) and sarcastic Angela (played by Wendie Malick), who are all the wine-guzzling, gossipy old lady stereotypes that make “Mack & Rita” such a trite and insulting portrayal of older women. Betty is the one who owns the house in Palm Springs. Sharon is an openly queer woman who divorced her husband (Carla’s father), and then married a woman, who is now deceased. The only reason this information about Sharon’s love life is in the movie is to make Sharon a negative stereotype of an elderly woman who’s bitter about not currently having a love partner.

The younger female characters in the movie aren’t much better when it comes to shallow clichés, except for Carla, who is the only one who comes across as having a believable personality and a life that doesn’t revolve around envying other people or gossiping about them. (Paige, who’s stuck in the thankless role as Carla, sometimes looks like she knows she’s in a bad movie, but perhaps she needed the money.) Mack as a 30-year-old is just insufferably ignorant, and it doesn’t help that Lail gives the worst performance in the cast. Luckily, the 30-year-old Mack doesn’t have much screen time, compared to 70-year-old Mack/Rita whose depiction is appalling enough.

Far from making the “elderly” Mack/Rita look stylish, the substandard costume design for the “elderly” Mack/Rita consists of mostly ill-fitting (usually too large) embarrassments. Who in their right mind thinks anyone looks good in an oversized plaid blazer paired with an oversized polka dot A-line skirt? But there “elderly” Mack/Rita is, wearing one of these many clownish-looking outfits in “Mack & Rita.”

Everything about “Mack & Rita” looks like an outdated sitcom that was rejected decades ago. It’s also a fake feminist film. If Mack gets a “happy ending” (her romance with Jack; finding Luka to turn her back to her “normal” self), it’s all dependent on getting a man to like her. Mack shows no real independence or personal growth. The romance in this movie is as dull as dull can be.

“Mack & Rita” is just a series of abysmal slapstick scenes and forced, terrible scenarios where people are supposed to laugh at the sight of a woman in her 70s doing things that younger people usually do—and she gets mocked for it in one way or another. Making an entire movie about putting an elderly woman in humiliating situations is not amusing. It’s misogynistic. Movie audiences and someone with Keaton’s caliber of talent deserve so much better.

Gravitas Premiere released “Mack & Rita” in U.S. cinemas on August 12, 2022.

Review: ‘Red Rocket,’ starring Simon Rex, Bree Elrod and Suzanna Son

December 27, 2021

by Carla Hay

Simon Rex and Suzanna Son in “Red Rocket” (Photo courtesy of A24)

“Red Rocket” 

Directed by Sean Baker

Culture Representation: Taking place in 2016 in Texas City, Texas, the comedy/drama film “Red Rocket” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans and one Asian) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A washed-up and financially broke porn actor goes back to his Texas hometown, where he tries to hustle up enough money to leave town and go back to California, with the hope of making a comeback in the adult entertainment industry.

Culture Audience: “Red Rocket” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of filmmaker Sean Baker and tragicomic stories about people with unsavory lifestyles.

Simon Rex and Bree Elrod in “Red Rocket” (Photo courtesy of A24)

“Red Rocket” continues writer/director/producer Sean Baker’s pattern of doing raw and restless films about people who live on the fringes of American society. Baker’s movies aren’t appealing to everyone, but his biggest strengths as a filmmaker are in creating very memorable characters and making smart casting decisions. Simon Rex (an actor/rapper who’s also a former MTV VJ) is an inspired choice to play a destitute and desperate former porn actor who goes back to his Texas hometown, with the intent to get enough money to go back to California, so he can jumpstart his career in adult entertainment. Rex has his own real-life history with doing porn, since it’s not a secret that he did solo/masturbation porn videos before he became famous on MTV in the mid-1990s.

In “Red Rocket” (which Baker co-wrote with Chris Bergoch), Rex gives a “go for broke” performance, even though many viewers might grow to dislike or get irritated by his self-centered and disreputable Mikey Saber character, a drifter in his mid-40s, who always seems to be on the hustle for something that benefits himself. Baker doesn’t make movies where audiences are supposed to expect that the protagonist will go through some kind of redemption. Instead, his movies are about how the main character gets stuck in a rut and often makes things worse through a series of misguided shenanigans.

That’s exactly what goes on with Mikey, who has suddenly moved back to his working-class hometown of Texas City, Texas, after years of living in California and working as a porn actor for the past 17 years. It would be overstating Mikey’s status in the adult entertainment industry by describing him as a “porn star,” even though he would like to think that he’s a “porn star.” Mikey might be somewhat well-known to porn aficionados, but he’s not famous enough to get automatic invitations every year to the Adult Video News (AVN) Awards, which are the Oscars of porn movies.

Whatever money he made as a porn actor is long gone, because by the time Mikey moves back to Texas City (the movie takes place in 2016), he’s broke and looking to make some quick cash, even if it’s through illegal means. The first clue that Mikey gets himself into violent trouble is that he has bruises on his face, as if he recently got into a fight. Mikey has some unfinished business that he left behind in Texas City when he moved to California, but now he has to face some realities that he’s been trying to avoid. Just like a true hustler, he tries to turn things around to his advantage.

The biggest unfinished business that Mikey has in Texas City is that he’s still legally married to his estranged wife Lexi (played by Bree Elrod), who wants to get back together with him. Even if Mikey could afford to go through with the divorce, Lexi doesn’t really want to get divorced. Mikey and Lexi used to do porn together, but Lexi is no longer in the adult entertainment industry, and she doesn’t want to go back to it.

When homeless Mikey shows up unannounced at Lexi’s house, she’s initially irritated with him, but she’s generous enough to give him a place to stay. Not much is said about Mikey’s biological family members, but it’s implied that he’s an only child. It’s briefly mentioned that his single mother is in a nursing home.

Lexi lives with her mother Lily, nicknamed Lil (played by Brenda Deiss), and it’s later revealed that they both smoke heroin or another opioid on a regular basis. Mikey doesn’t really approve of this drug use, but he’s not in a position to be preachy about illegal drug activities. He smokes weed, and he ends up doing some small-time drug dealing (mostly marijuana) for a local gang involved in drug trafficking.

Mikey has done this work before in Texas City, so he asks for his old job back from the dealer in charge: a gang maven named Leondria (played by Judy Hill), who leads a group of mostly young men, but she has her young adult daughter June (played by Brittney Rodriguez) working as the gang lookout and enforcer. It’s quite problematic that Baker chose to make the only African Americans in “Red Rocket” into gangsters and drug dealers, which are unimaginative and negative stereotypes. And for a movie that takes place in Texas, which has a large Hispanic/Latino population, it’s also appalling how there’s no Hispanic/Latino representation (in terms of speaking roles) in “Red Rocket.”

When Mikey first shows up at Lexi’s place, he begs to take a shower. “I just need a place to crash,” Mikey pleads. Soon enough, he tells Lexi that he doesn’t just need a place to crash for a few days. He needs to stay for at least 180 days (or six months), which is the legal minimum requirement to establish residency in Texas.

Why does Mikey want to establish residency in Texas? He wants to collect unemployment benefits and other government benefits from the state of Texas. Until that happens, Mikey turns to drug dealing for money.

Mikey and Lexi start having sex again. For Mikey, it’s convenient sex to keep Lexi happy and for his own physical pleasure. For Lexi, it’s reunion sex, which she thinks is Mikey’s way of showing that he still loves her and wants to get back together with her. For any adult who’s watching this movie, it’s sex that will obviously not end well for someone in this movie, because someone will get emotionally hurt in the end.

And sure enough, Mikey starts to lose interest in Lexi once he meets a nubile 17-year-old named Strawberry (played by Suzanna Son), who works behind the counter of a donut shop. It’s lust at first sight for Mikey, who sees Strawberry (yes, that’s her real name) as his meal ticket out of Texas City because he wants her to do porn with him and move with him to California when he has enough money. In Texas, the minimum legal age of consent to have sex is 17, but Strawberry will soon turn 18, the minimum legal age to do porn. Slowly but surely, Mikey charms and seduces his way into Strawberry’s life. And he finds out that Strawberry, who has a kind and open heart, is not as innocent as she looks.

Lexi has another reason why she wants Mikey back in her life. She has an underage son named Eric from a previous relationship. Lexi lost custody of Eric (it’s easy to see why), and she wants to convince Child Protective Services that she’s now living a stable life as a happily married woman. Lexi puts pressure on Mikey to give their marriage another chance, but he won’t fully commit to it.

At the same time, Mikey doesn’t want to alienate Lexi too much because she’s the only person who’s giving him a place to live in Texas City. Therefore, when Mikey and Strawberry start dating and having sex, Mikey thinks it’s best to hide this information from Lexi, because he knows that she’ll get jealous and possibly kick him out of the house. Lexi has a mean-spirited temper: It’s not unusual for her to throw things during an argument at the person who’s making her angry.

“Red Rocket” has a rambling tone that reflects Mikey’s haphazard life. Unfortunately, even though the cast members’ performances are believable, the movie tends to be repetitive in showing any of these three things: arguments between Mikey and Lexi; Mikey’s tensions with the gang members/drug dealers he’s doing business with while Mikey is tempted to steal some of their money; and Mikey’s manipulation of Strawberry, who is still in high school. Strawberry lives with her single mother (who’s not seen in the movie) and seems to have a fairly stable home life, but she’s bored with her dead-end job and can’t wait to get out of Texas City.

A problematic part of “Red Rocket” is how it has a tendency to present Mikey as a loveable bad boy, when he’s just a low-life sleaze (and not a very smart one), through and through. There’s really no good excuse for why a middle-aged person would want to persuade a barely legal teenager to start doing porn. Mikey doesn’t have much to lose by doing porn, but a teenager who hasn’t really found an identity yet and might be too emotionally immature to make this decision has a lot to lose by doing porn.

Mikey doesn’t care about the consequences for Strawberry though. He’s only thinking about how much money he can make if they do porn together. If anything, “Red Rocket” has some realism in showing how young women are easily manipulated by sexual predators to do this kind of sex work. Mikey effusively compliments Strawberry by telling her how beautiful and sexy she is. He also sells her on the idea that they can live a glamorous life in California, by getting paid for having sex on camera.

It’s obvious that Strawberry still has a lot to learn about life, because she falls for Mikey’s big talk, but she’s blind to the big picture. She seems to have some awareness of how doing porn will affect her, when she says, “I’m about to have a very awkward senior year. I’m not about to have a very awkward life.” But it’s almost like she’s in denial about how doing porn could really affect the rest of her life, in terms of job opportunities, what kinds of lovers might or might not accept her porn activities, and how her involvement with porn could affect any children she might have in the future.

More experienced or more emotionally mature people would be able to see right through Mikey’s scammer ways. After all, Mikey is pretending to be a big shot porn star, when in reality, he’s essentially homeless and trying to use an inexperienced teenager to peddle her flesh for his own financial gain. How much of a loser do you have to be to think this scummy exploitation is cool?

“Red Rocket” doesn’t really condone or condemn Mikey’s sleaziness, but Baker expects audiences to show a certain type of fascination with Mikey, by making an entire movie about this type of sexual predator. The movie puts an almost comical spin on the sordid antics of Mikey, by giving the movie a lightweight pop tune as its theme song: *NSYNC’s 2000 hit “Bye Bye Bye.” Audiences are supposed to see the irony in contrasting a song from a polished boy band with the very dirty and chaotic life of Mikey.

“Bye Bye Bye” is the first song heard blaring on the movie’s soundtrack when Mikey is shown on a bus on his way back to Texas City. The song is also heard in various forms in other parts of the movie, such as when Strawberry does a compelling, stripped-down version of the song while playing piano. Making “Bye Bye Bye” the theme song to “Red Rocket” is essentially a nod to the early 2000s, at the beginning of Mikey’s porn career, so the song probably reminds him of his youth. (Rex was no longer a VJ on MTV by the time *NYSNC hit it big.)

Physically, Mikey is still in great shape, compared to other men in his age group. But the rest of his life is a mess. (Viewers will see all of Mikey’s physique in a full-frontal nude scene that Rex does toward the end of the movie.) Baker invites audiences to laugh at Mikey, as this fast-talking hustler digs himself further into a self-destructive hole. But it’s not the kind of laughter that should make people feel good because it’s about laughing at pathetic people who are caught in a cesspool of degradation, often of their own doing.

What makes “Red Rocket” worth watching is to see how Strawberry navigates her relationship with Mikey. As Strawberry, Son gives an interesting performance that’s open to interpretation. Strawberry is grounded, open-minded and independent, yet she’s also unsophisticated, insecure about her place in the world, and susceptible to Mikey’s manipulations. Therefore, viewers might see her as a teenager who’s capable of growing up fast and handling herself well, or as teenager who could get easily mixed up in situations that she might end up regretting.

Truth be told, “Red Rocket” would have been a more compelling movie to a lot of people if it had been told from Strawberry’s perspective. She’s the only character in the movie who doesn’t veer into caricature territory. Lexi becomes a screaming shrew. The gangsters/drug dealers are depicted in a very predictable way. Other characters, such as Mikey’s hometown friend Lonnie (played by Ethan Darbone), aren’t in the movie long enough to have much of a personality or an impact on the story. Lonnie is essentially a sounding board for Mikey’s bragging about his sexual exploits.

There are so many movies already about egotistical jerks who are at the center of the story. “Red Rocket” just happens to have better acting than most of these movies. Baker seems enamored with doing films about people who exist on the seedy side of life. Let’s hope his future movies are centered on a more unique protoganist than the type of overrated toxic male who doesn’t earn filmmakers’ efforts to make viewers think that he’s just “misunderstood.”

A24 released “Red Rocket” in select U.S. cinemas on December 10, 2021.

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