Movie News & Reviews

Movie review: Bawdy buddy film ‘Tangerine’ ingeniously unique

Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, right, in "Tangerine."
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, right, in "Tangerine." Magnolia Pictures

Indie filmmaker Sean Baker has received a lot of attention because he shot his latest film, “Tangerine,” guerrilla-style on the streets of L.A. with just an iPhone 5s.

But it’s not the technology and law-breaking that make this movie so ingeniously unique. It’s the people, the place, the electric sense of movement and the biting sense of humor.

Set over a few hours in the lives of two transgendered Los Angeles prostitutes on the hunt for the pimp/boyfriend who has done one of them wrong, “Tangerine” is a bawdy buddy movie that updates the concept of who movie stars can be for the 21st century.

After a couple of minutes in the company of Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) and Alexandra (Mya Taylor), viewers won’t see them as tragic or troubled but as survivors.

It’s Christmas Eve in Hollywood but the sun is hot enough to melt any holiday cheer. Sin-Dee has just gotten out of jail but can’t find her man Chester (James Ransone, Low Winter Sun) anywhere in the usual hangouts.

Alexandra, who is handing out flyers for her karaoke show that night, goes along with Sin-Dee because, what are friends for?

Along the way, they stumble across a variety of characters, including Armenian taxi driver Razmik (Karren Karagulian), who finds distraction from his old-world family duties and nosy mother-in-law in the camaraderie of the likes of Sin-Dee.

Los Angeles has been displayed on film probably more than any city on the planet, so it’s impressive that Baker’s view is so strikingly original. His L.A. isn’t one of beaches and bikinis, shiny cars and sexy movie stars – or even of gangs and cops – but one that’s far more mundane.

It’s a sea of sun-blasted strip malls, dreary buses, lonely doughnut shops, worn storefronts, empty clubs and tired immigrants – in this case, Armenian and Korean – trying to piece together their version of the American dream.

Then there’s the look of “Tangerine,” which, like the color of the fruit with the same name, is absolutely radiant. On top of that, Baker keeps things moving, reflecting Sin-Dee’s mounting rage and despair. He has done a remarkable job with few resources.

Tangerine is absolutely delicious.


Cast: Mya Taylor, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, James Ransone

Director: Sean Baker

Length: 88 minutes

Rating: R (strong and disturbing sexual content, graphic nudity, strong language throughout, drug use)


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