The SCAD Savannah Film Festival continues with The Power of the Dog, Red Rocket, and C’mon C’mon.
“People love a comeback story,” said actor Simon Rex to moderator Scott Feinberg during the Q&A following the presentation of his film Red Rocket. “I don’t know if I made it enough to make it a comeback.”
Most of the students seated in the theater weren’t even born when Rex made a name for himself as an MTV VJ before he became synonymous with the Scary Movie franchise in the early aughts, so it’s a pretty interesting testament to the film that it not only kept a pretty-packed house for the late show on Tuesday, October 26, but that the Gen Z audience laughed and stayed for the Q&A, which went well past midnight.
Rex relayed the story of how he had retreated to Joshua Tree during the height of the pandemic when director Sean Baker (Tangerine, The Florida Project) called him for what would become the role of a lifetime.
“It was really slow for a long time,” Rex said on the red carpet regarding his career. “You go up and down. I never thought that if something like this happened that it would be a critically-acclaimed festival movie. That’s nothing that ever crossed my path until Sean Baker called. Super grateful that he decided to choose me.”
Red Rocket is at times icky and messy, and yet you can’t look away. And one of the best parts is that while you are watching it, you have no idea how it’s going to end, even though Rex shared that Baker claimed later after filming was complete that a key figure in the film, one of the last images in the movie, might be a figment of Mikey’s (Rex) imagination.
The Power of the Dog
To contrast the fast-talking Mikey Saber in Red Rocket, there’s the more subdued, churning with tension, The Power of the Dog, directed by Jane Campion and starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, and SCAD Savannah Film Festival Discovery Award recipient Kodi Smit-McPhee.
“She emotionally challenged me, which was very necessary and rewarding,” said Smit-McPhee on the red carpet.
For audiences, the less you know about this movie, the better. While it’s slow to start, the pace creeps up on you, especially when Smit-McPhee’s character reenters the picture more than halfway through the film and pulls at the strings of the tightly wound Phil Burbank (Cumberbatch).
“It has so many layers to it,” he said. “It’s not like a lot of our modern-day films that put a lot of things in our face, tell us how to feel, tell us what the direction the movie is going in. This is something that you really take part in.”
Director Mike Mills has explored family dynamics with a father and son (Beginners), mother and son (20th Century Women), and with his latest C’mon C’mon, he explores the uncle/nephew dynamic, even though as he told me on the red carpet, it’s really about child rearing in general.
“To me, the uncle/nephew thing was just a way to talk about parenting, about being an adult taking care of a kid. It can be biological or not—being the primary caretaker of a kid person. What that’s like, from my experience as a dad.”
We’ve seen films with themes like C’mon C’mon before, where the father figure is thrown into a situation where he has to grow up or learn how to take care of someone else while he grows to love the kid. But in this case, Joaquin Phoenix’s Johnny isn’t reluctant toward domestic responsibilities. When his nephew Jesse, played by the adorable Woody Norman, asks him why he’s single, podcaster Johnny later records a voiceover detailing that he wants to get married—it just hasn’t worked out for him. There’s a refreshing theme here of parenting taking on different forms through different figures in a child’s life, even though Gaby Hoffman’s Viv obviously takes on the brunt of the parental load as Jesse’s mother, who’s practically raising the child on her own.
Joaquin Phoenix gives a funny, bittersweet, and nuanced performance, and there’s an ease and comfortability in the chemistry he has with the fantastic Norman.
Coming up at the SCAD Savannah Film Festival—The Humans, Spencer, Cyrano, and King Richard.