Thursday, July 09, 2015

“Tangerine”– Movie Review



This week, I attended a sneak preview of the new comedy, “Tangerine”, at The Film Society Of Lincoln Center.


When a transgender prostitute finds out her boyfriend has cheated on her, she immediately sets out for revenge – but at what price?


On her first day of freedom after spending a month in jail, Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez), a transgender prostitute who works the streets of Los Angeles, is spending Christmas Eve with her best friend and co-worker Alexandra (Mya Taylor) instead of with her pimp-boyfriend Chester (James Ransone), who’s suddenly turned up missing in action.  When Alexandra accidentally lets it slip that Chester cheated on Sin-Dee while she was locked up, this causes Sin-Dee to go understandably ballistic and she heads off to try to find her man and confront him about his alleged infidelity. 

Marching down the long streets on foot, Sin-Dee makes stops at many points along the way where she either spots other working girls or suspects Chester may be hanging out.  Alexandra, always by her friend’s side, uses these opportunities to promote her singing engagement that evening at a local nightclub.  When not earning a living by picking up fares in his cab, Razmik (Karren Karagulian), is picking up transgender streetwalkers – unbeknownst to his family; as such, he is a particularly frequent customer of both Alexandra and Sin-Dee.  Spotting Razmik in his cab, Alexandra takes a break from accompanying Sin-Dee to earn some quick cash for the holidays. 

Although Sin-Dee hasn’t been able to track down Chester, she does learn the whereabouts of Dinah (Mickey O'Hagan), the other prostitute (and a biological female, at that!) under Chester’s employ – in fact, she was the one Chester was with during Sin-Dee’s incarceration.  Sin-Dee beats up Dinah and drags her all around town (including to Alexandra’s performance) while still in hot pursuit of Chester.  Once Sin-Dee discovers where Chester is hiding out, she brings Dinah with her to let Chester know she’s on to his hijinks – but when Razmik shows up looking for a date, chaos erupts.  As the argument rages on, it comes out that Chester has been cheating with other people aside from just Dinah.  After Sin-Dee is informed of this, will she still be able to trust others or will she lose all of her friends for good?  


For anyone not already aware, “Tangerine” was shot entirely on a mobile telephone – specifically, an Apple iPhone 5S.  Because of this – and because the movie was reported to have been well-received at this year’s Sundance Film Festival – “Tangerine” has gotten quite a bit of buzz, a considerable amount of it positive.  Using multiple phones/cameras, specially-adapted lenses and Steadicam-like devices to prevent excessive shaking, the director and cinematographer shot the entire motion picture.  If you are interested in reading more about the technical aspects behind this film, there is this recent article from The New York Times.   

Considering the equipment used, “Tangerine” is a remarkable achievement in independent filmmaking.  The ability to capture the vivid colors alone (the glaring Los Angeles sunlight being especially noteworthy) is something that will immediately grab a viewer’s attention.  Simply put, it’s a great-looking film.  But there is also the danger of spending too much time awestruck by the technology used to make “Tangerine” and not enough analyzing it as a movie.  Regardless of how this motion picture was shot, it remains an interesting, well-told story with a deeply satisfying ending; add to this the fact that, as a comedy, it succeeds in being consistently funny, and “Tangerine” is definitely worth your time and effort to see.  All of that said, it’s still a little unclear where the title comes from; please feel free to chime in with any suggestions or observations. 

Following the screening, there was a question and answer session with “Tangerine”’s director and co-writer, Sean Baker as well as a few members of the movie’s cast and crew.  Baker, a New Yorker, said that he got the idea for “Tangerine” as a result of moving to Los Angeles.  The corner where many of these prostitutes work is on Santa Monica Boulevard and Hyland Avenue, which, Baker eventually came to learn, had long been considered something of an unofficial Red Light District in the city.  Since this spot was only about a half mile away from where he lived, Baker decided it would make the perfect subject for his next motion picture. 


Tangerine (2015) on IMDb

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