It’s Christmas Eve, though from the sunny LA weather it doesn’t look it, and transgender prostitute, Sin-Dee has just been released from prison. While sharing a festive treat, best friend Alexandra accidently lets slip that Sin-Dee’s main squeeze and pimp is cheating on her, so begins Sean Baker’s Tangerine, finally a Christmas movie to rival Die Hard.
Shot entirely on an iPhone5, Tangerine follows Sin-Dee’s search for the “fish” (cisgender woman) Chester’s been seeing, while Alexandra just wants a drama-free day to prepare for her show later. Also in the picture is Armenian taxi driver Razmik, who spends much of his hard earned cash on Alexandra and co, rather than his young family. The girls’ world and Razmik’s cab provide an insight into LA’s seedy underbelly, offset nicely by brief scenes of Razmik’s family.
Interestingly, the film’s low budget and the inexperience of the two leads (real-life friends Kitiana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor) work in the movie’s favour. The iPhone cameras and up-close and personal style of filming lend a gritty, realistic feel, and the cinematography doesn’t suffer for it. Tangerine looks vibrant, colourful and bold, much like its script and characters.
Tangerine might completely smash casting conventions (with two leads that are not only trans but also people of colour), weaving a tale out of characters rarely portrayed in any real sense on the big screen, but as a comedy, it sticks to the basics. There’s a girlfriend/buddy comedy vibe that serves to keep the characters relatable and the humour accessible. For all the film’s humour, though, it’s unafraid to show the darker sides to the characters’ lives, and it’s in those scenes – the more pensive, quieter ones – where the true heart lies.
Tangerine may sound like a rather niche offering but, because of its inspired shooting style, vibrancy and charm, it’s certainly not one to be missed.
Tangerine is released nationwide on 13th November 2015.
Watch the trailer for Tangerine here: