Image Above: A Poster for Tangerine (Image from official site).
Tangerine is amazingly good. It is a manic trip which takes off like a runaway train and does not stop until it literally runs out of steam. We meet Alexandra (Mya Taylor) and her best friend Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) in a seedy doughnut shop in south Los Angeles. Sin-Dee, who has just been released from 28 days in jail is wondering where her boyfriend, Chester (James Ransone) is and Alexandra reveals that he has been cheating on her. The fact that Alexandra and Sin-Dee are black transgender prostitutes, Chester is their pimp and the girl he has been cheating with happens to be a white real girl inflames the craziness. Sin-Dee goes ballistic and sets out to wreak as much havoc as possible until she gets satisfaction. All we can do is hang on for the ride in an Almodovar-esque romp as we careen through the anarchic and chaotic world in which they live.
©Kitana Kiki Rodriguez in TANGERINE, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures. (Image from official site)
Rodriguez as Sin-Dee is thrilling to watch and is the propellant for the film. A trash talking, tightly-wound firecracker who charges through the streets and into buildings with the doggedness of a bloodhound on speed - looking for the transgressors. She is driven by unbridled emotion and truly compelling. Taylor as Alexander/Alexandra is a more subtly-drawn character. Still in the interim stage of her transition, she is more insecure about herself, more thoughtful, and has more long-term aspirations to be a singer. She is the more rational and level-headed as she attempts to keep her friend from total disaster. They are both terrific.
©Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez in TANGERINE, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures. (Image from official site)
There are some loosely intertwined subplots which round out this deep dive into their milieu and give context to these lives on the fringes, There is a particularly memorable scene of sex in a carwash which is a gem of timing and music. Unforgettable. Most brilliant is the final scene after the cacophanous showdown. It is so quiet and sweet and sensitive that it totally elevates the film to another level and reveals the underlying humanity in the characters. It is a directorial tour de force.
©Mya Taylor in TANGERINE, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures. (Image from official site)
The film which was shot on an iphone produces such vivid color saturation which makes the light and warmth of southern California feel tangible. It also looks so spontaneous and immediate that it feels incredibly intimate as if there is no crew and bulky equipment between us and the characters. The colors and textures of the gritty streets and the down-and-out characters which inhabit them are ravishing. It is a marvel of independent no-budget filmmaking and Sean Baker deserves nothing but kudos.
©Mickey O’Hagan and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez in TANGERINE, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures. (Image from official site)
By Belle McIntyre