Tangerine

tangerineSTARS4A girl inadvertently reveals the philandering ways of her pal’s boyfriend during a casual conversation in an LA doughnut shop The news compels the deceived to get to the bottom of the situation. Sounds like a rather pedestrian plot, right? Now add that the parties are 2 transgender prostitutes working in a seedy part of Hollywood. Her beau earns a living as a pimp and the whole production was shot on an iPhone 5s. Are you still with me? OK well yes, Tangerine is gonna be a rough journey for some. This is LA, raw and uncensored, right in the heart of where N. Highland Ave. intersects Santa Monica Blvd. Yet deep down, heart is what this picture is all about.

A great story is highlighted by meaningful characters. This diverse ensemble is headlined by a plethora of memorable people including an Armenian taxicab driver (Karren Karagulian), his wife (Luiza Nersisyan) and her mother (Alla Tumanian). Tangerine stars Kitana “Kiki” Rodriguez as Sin-Dee Rella and Mya Taylor as her BFF Alexandra. Both make their acting debut here. The two unite in gritty L.A. during Christmas Eve. Sin-Dee has recently gotten out of LA county jail and she’s looking for her boyfriend/pimp Chester (James Ransone). She has just been informed that he has been less than true. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. That there is still space to present Alexandra and her dreams of becoming a singer, only adds to the depth of the narrative.  In keeping with the Christmas period, her rendition of the song “Toyland” from the Victor Herbert operetta Babes in Toyland is moving.  The myriad of individuals ultimately descend at Donut Time for a confrontation at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Highland Avenue.

Tangerine is an important film. Not simply because of content. Plenty of movies have dealt with challenging adult subject matter. What sets it apart is uplifting proof that cost is no longer a prohibitive factor when setting out to make an entertaining flick. The fact that the entire drama was photographed on an iPhone 5s is clearly the result of an autonomous mind. The idea that anyone with a unique point of view can make a movie is an exhilarating concept that lies beneath every frame of Tangerine that illuminates the screen.

Director Sean Baker is an American film and TV director and co-creator of Greg the Bunny, an American television sitcom that originally aired on Fox in 2002. Tangerine is actually his fifth feature but perhaps the first to achieve any modicum of fame. In it, he provides an insider’s view of the sordid and dangerous lives of streetwalkers in Los Angeles. Yet it’s not entirely doom and gloom. It’s marked by a light touch. Some of the most laugh-out-loud moments in all of 2015 occur in this production. The screenplay is accentuated by some flippant one liners that are sure to be oft quoted lines of dialogue as the movie undoubtedly makes its way into the pop culture mainstream in years to come.

Tangerine pulses with the unique voice of independent film. The narrative beats with a vitality rarely seen in contemporary cinema. An evocation of LA’s current essence, perfectly captured as any I’ve seen.  It’s vibrant and funny and yes at times pretty bleak.  The humorous touch sometimes undone by the grim truth in the ongoing predicament of the two protagonists. Perhaps that’s being authentic but it also shocks the viewer. One minute we’re laughing at an amusing aside, the next we’re slapped into harsh reality by dead seriousness. Along the way, the script straddles the line between dignifying the two leads and exploiting them. That’s no easy feat. Their fierce attitudes consistently at the fore as the chronicle emphasizes their sassy personalities.  Yet it never resorts to caricature. There’s an inherent sadness within these characters too.  The humanity on display is pretty heartbreaking. Tangerine encapsulates the atmosphere of LA 2015 and distills this into a poignant chronicle for the present generation. The sensibility is clearly the product of our modern time. Like Boyz n the Hood (1991), The Player (1992) & Mulholland Drive (2001), Tangerine is the quintessential LA movie for the current era.

08-02-15

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16 Responses to “Tangerine”

  1. Man I really can’t wait to see this. Admittedly it’ll be for the fact it’s shot on an iPhone 5s more than anything, but still. . . .

  2. Even though the story doesn’t sound particularly appealing to me, I’m willing to see this film just to see how it’s made.

    • Tangerine uses wide-angle close-ups that put the conversations right in your face. It’s an interesting decision that actually works in this context.

  3. I have no issues that this was shot on an Iphone. I just get worried that all indie movies that will be filmed this way. Great reading that this movie has both comedy and drama with these characters life. Good review

    • The way Tangerine was filmed is an important distinction that has been appropriately used to market the picture. It means that literally anyone with a smartphone can make a film. A lot of bad movies will be made of course, but also a lot of great ones as well. The glass is half full. 😀

  4. Solid review. Very interested in this one.

  5. Interesting looking film, I’ll keep an eye out. Well written as always, Mark.

  6. Looking forward to this one. Might watch it on my phone for added irony.

  7. Amazing to know this was filmed with an iPhone 5. Unbelievable. This was very raw and seemed unscripted at times. I liked that. Subject matter was strange but pretty enjoyable. 4 stars.

  8. Tangerine sounds SUPER gritty based on its story and the way it’s shot. It also sounds like it demands to be seen for its subject matter and its unique point of view. Interesting that it’s also humorous. Wouldn’t expect that from a film like this. Your review has intrigued me.

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