A Review Of The Film Tangerine

Tangerine debut at the 2105 Sundance Film Festival to instant acclaim. It’s energetic and tangible, almost documentarian. This feeling of authenticity might be because it’s shot entirely on an iPhone 5. The film takes place in Hollywood, California and revolves around two best friends, Alexandra (Mya Taylor) and Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez), who are African-American transgender prostitutes. The film opens up by letting the viewers know that Sin-Dee has just been released from prison and finds out that her pimp who is also her boyfriend who has been screwing around on her. She sets out on a mission to find him and the girl and the movie follows her as she scours the streets of Los Angeles because she’s going to make him pay. Additionally, we follow her friend Alexandra who takes clients just to get by and has hopes and aspirations of her own beyond just the life of being a sex worker.

Together these women were absolutely funny; the banter between them both was brilliant. And like you’d expect, some of the scenes were really moving and touching. Watching this movie, gives its viewers a deep dive into the world of these transgender women. After a while you just have to accept that this is the way it operates, what you see is what you get and things aren’t always perfect here. The movie has a great way of just following the lead of each character. There’s a fascinating taxi cab driver, Razmik (Karren Karagulian) who shows up in the movie without the viewers knowing what necessarily he’s there but he kind of weaves himself into the main story eventually. We then learn that his role is that he fetishizes transgender women and finds himself in a bit of trouble when his family finds out. Tangerine is a pretty explicit film but in a sense that you don’t actually see anything. You’re very aware of what the scene is about but there is a boundary to it. It could have went over the line but it had in mind that people might not want to see what goes on in a car when someone picks up a prostitute. People don’t need to see that but it shows enough of what’s happening to get the emotion across and to make the scene work.

Being shot on an iPhone really gave it that real documentary feel that the director was going for. It makes you feel like you’re really there in the moment. Some of the shots were filmed from the back of the taxi, driven by Razmik that makes you feel like your actually in the car and sneakily look at everything that is happening. The camera work was brilliant. It kind of dances around the main characters and even trails behind them at some scenes. It’s done in a way to create parallax and convey space. The film also showcases West Hollywood really well where we get to see different things that make up the place (for example; murals and graffiti).

What I love about Tangerine is that the story is far more than a revenge plot. The script is filled with thoughtful commentary on feminism, transgender issues and Hollywood’s diversity problems. It’s a film that is very empathetic to all its protagonist and not in any way judgemental. It seems to be made with a sense of authenticity that made me believe in the characters, their lives and their situations. Secondly, it’s very funny despite all of what is going on, which makes it a very vibrantly colorful film. I am looking forward to watching more films from Sean Baker as they’re really unique. 

16 December 2021
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