Director: Sean Baker
Screenplay: Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch
Starring: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor, Karren Karagulian, James Ransone
Running Time: 88 min
BBFC Certificate: 15
Not your average Christmas movie, Tangerine is a lively romp through the streets and back alleys of LA. The film follows Sin-dee, a transgender prostitute fresh out of jail on Christmas Eve, who discovers her tracksuit-clad pimp boyfriend (an immaculately cast Ziggy from The Wire) has been cheating on her with a cis-gendered woman. Sin-dee and Alexandra, her best friend and transgendered partner in crime, go on the warpath to find and confront the culprits.
Meanwhile, an LA taxi driver and family man drives through the city, dealing with the melting pot of Christmas Eve taxi customers between hiring ‘paid for relief’ from local transgendered prostitutes.
The juxtaposition of world’s here is one of my favourite things about this film. The contrast of Razmik’s taxi and the colourful collection of people that use it, alongside all of the encounters had by Alexandra and Sin-dee provide a bright cross-section of personality that is a feast for the senses.
Our pair of leads do a fantastic job of creating a chemistry that is the driving force of the film. Their bombastic, over the top interactions create a frivolous and funny film that is only improved by Baker’s music and visuals. The look of the film – shot entirely on the fly with an iPhone 5s, naturally isn’t one with super crisp production values. However, that wouldn’t have done this film justice. The method of shooting here isn’t a gimmick, it’s a great tool that devises an atmosphere reflective of the people it tries to represent. And it works, it’s not glossy, but it’s not supposed to be. I think it adds a fantastic sense of realism. Baker has also clearly colour-graded the crap out of this film. He’s given it a saturated sun-bed glow that might be terrible in any other film, but works well here to reflect the colourful, full-of-life world of the film. Similarly, the music is an in-your-face jarring dance party headache, but it’s used cleverly and somehow only adds to the film. As the film (and it’s characters’) plastic-fantastic shell begins to crack, we’re given a lot of thoughtful silence. It’s a stark contrast to what the film had gotten us used to and it does a great deal to highlight the most heartfelt closing moments of the film.
Tangerine won’t be for everyone, it’s a whirlwind and a roller-coaster. It’s a strange laugh-out-loud comedy with some harsh, cold truths. It’s a film about a pair of transgendered prostitutes on the hunt for a cheating pimp in LA after all. But if you have the energy to watch it, it’s definitely worth your time.
Tangerine is released on Monday March 28th on DVD in the UK.