Tangerine is a super-low-budget indie film that was filmed entirely with an iPhone. Directed, written and largely filmed by Sean Baker, Tangerine tells the story of two transgender prostitutes in Los Angeles on Christmas Eve (this is most definitely not your average Christmas film).
Sin-Dee (played wonderfully by Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) has just been released from prison and meets up with her best friend Alexandra (likewise wonderfully played by Mya Taylor) at a Donut Time. Alexandra inadvertently informs Sin-Dee that Chester, her pimp/boyfriend, has been seeing another woman. Sin-Dee immediately runs out in search of Chester (James Ransone) and the other woman (Mickey O’Hagan), while Alexandra hands out fliers for a short concert she is performing in a bar that evening. On the way, Alexandra runs into an Armenian taxi driver named Razmik (Karren Karagulian) who has a particular interest in transgender prostitutes and is excited to hear that Sin-Dee is back on the streets. Razmik’s mother-in-law, however, is not as excited.
One of my favourite scenes in the film is an exchange between Razmik and one his customers, a Cherokee whose voice (though not his face) I recognized instantly as belonging to Clu Gulager, one of my favourite character actors back in the 80’s. Great cameo.
Tangerine is a raw, real, funny and humanizing film that largely avoids melodrama despite its eccentric characters, and the cinematography is much better than I expected. In spite of these attributes, and the fact that a few of the scenes are magical, the overall impression I had was that Tangerine was not as good (not as deep or satisfying) as the critical acclaim had led me to believe it might be. But I’ll give it ***+ for being unique and having a good heart. My mug is up.