Rated – R
Directed by Sean Baker
Starring: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor
If this is the movie that people talk about because it was shot on iPhones, then that’s too bad because Tangerine is truly a one-of-a-kind film. But yes, let’s address the elephant in the studio because I’ll be completely honest, this was probably the main reason why I checked out this film on Netflix a year after its release. Filming this movie on iPhones isn’t really a gimmick, it’s merely a perfect match for the style and tone Tangerine demands. It’s also an independent film, but if you can make a film at a fraction of the cost without losing anything, then why not?
There are plenty of films that want to create that edgy and grainy feel to enhance its voice as an art-house production, but that’s not the purpose during Tangerine. Using iPhones truly captures the frantic feel as we zigzag through the characters on the streets of Los Angeles. Sean Baker forces us into this tumultuous world that our main characters live in.
It’s Christmas Eve and Sin-Dee just got out of a 28-day prison sentence. She’s talking with her best friend, Alexandra, at the Donut Time and the film takes off when Alexandra leaks some information that her pimp (and boyfriend) cheated on her while she was in jail. Sin-Dee makes it her mission to find this girl and to bring it up to her boyfriend, Chester. This involves visiting everyone she knows, harassing drug dealers and defying any logic until she’s able to track down this girl that all she knows is white and whose name starts with a “D.”
Did I mention that Sin-Dee and Alexandra are transgender women? It’s not necessary to point that out, but it’s quite obvious once the movie begins and plays a very important role as the plot progresses. The amateur actresses, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor, are a riot and a pleasure to watch on screen. They’re loud, profane, and full of energy while displaying incredible chemistry with one another. They carry the film with their unique and bad-ass attitudes, delivering every single line with passion as if they were speaking to a sold-out arena.
Tangerine is a sad film, but told within a plot with many funny moments and naturally hilarious characters. There is never a moment when I felt like the film was overplaying the transgender angle, or the prostitution angle, or even the low-budget/iPhone angle. With diversity being such an important issue in Hollywood, it’s a miracle that this film was made and viewed by anyone. The result was a very well-made film that made dozens of critics’ top ten lists from 2015. It most definitely deserves all of the accolades and I am more than glad to have been able to watch this gem. Tangerine might not be ground-breaking, but it supports everything that needs to be changed with filmmaking. It celebrates the potential that a powerful and entertaining story has without passing it onto celebrities and million of dollars.