Spoilers wish you a Happy Pride Month.
I missed this movie back when it was a part of Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival back in 2015. For a movie reviewed during a festival, there’s no spoilers and I don’t go deep into details. For a regular Movie Review, I delve a bit further with light spoilers. A Late Fantasia Review is usually somewhere in the middle. I will usually put more spoilers if it’s a Late Movie Night (classic movies I talk in detail) or I didn’t like the movie and don’t mind spoiling it. If I like a new movie, no spoilers are allowed.
Tangerine (2015) was directed by Sean Baker who wrote it with Chris Bergoch. It tells the story of a transgender prostitute who gets out of jail on Christmas Eve and learns her pimp and boyfriend has been unfaithful to her. That might be the main storyline, but what you really get is a look inside the lives of the inhabitants of the world that exists in the intersection of Santa Monica Blvd and Highland Avenue in Hollywood, L.A.
The movie is both drama and comedy, and it manages to convey a sense of familiarity between the characters without ever mocking them. Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) plays the main character, a brash and impetuous spirit that is the driving force of the fim as she searches and interrogates the other denizens of the L.A. streets trying to find her man. Alexandra (Mya Taylor) is her best friend, who is trying to keep her out of trouble. She’s also trying to get people to join her event at a bar where she’s going to go on stage and sing. The other point of view character we follow is Razmik (Karren Karagulian) an Armenian taxi driver and the diverse characters that he picks up. There’s a lot more to Razmik, of course.
The film has been praised for its guerrilla-style approach to filmmaking and a technical and budget achievement: it was filmed using three iPhone 5s smartphones, along with the Moondog Labs’ anamorphic clip on lens and a $8 app, FiLMiC Pro in addition to Steadicam Smoothee Mounts. I know that for film aficionados that makes it an iPhone movie but I actually learn this after watching the film. Truth be told, as impressive as that feat is, it’s even more impressive that you won’t really notice any drastic particularities with a regular film. The filmography is really stunning as we see day turn to evening and night and the colors just add more atmosphere.
The performances are as close to real as you can get from the main cast. You notice the change in Sin-Dee as she momentarily stops her search to be the only one showing up at her friend Alexandra’s showcase, even dragging female prostitute Dinah (Mickey O’Hagan) along. Razmik has his own problems at home to deal with, but he’ll find they will end up following him at the worst possible time with hilarious results. The relationship between Sin-Dee and Alexandra in particular was something that I found portrayed in a very sweet and caring way. Don’t expect any hero figures showing up to solve the problem of prostitution or how transgendered people in sex work are treated. The best these characters can hope for is to live another day.
Extremely recommended with no reservations. The visual storytelling is brilliant. Sad and funny moments are presented without any framing bias, so we’re never demeaning the cast for comedy purposes. I would recommend this to anybody who wants to watch a great film without ever telling them what the technical achievements were. The tone of realism never leaves, there’s no fortuitous moment where our characters catch a break to change their luck. This is just the life where they need to hustle every day and the momentous times of joy and strife that come with it. Entertaining, engaging and human above all, this movie has both heart and soul.
That will do for now.