Taking place during a Los Angeles Christmas Eve, Tangerine is primarily about transgender sex worker Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) who, after spending 28 days in prison, discovers that her pimp boyfriend has been cheating on her and starts searching L.A. for the other woman, her friend Alexandra (Mya Taylor) in tow. The film also follows Armenian taxi driver Ramzik (Karren Karagulian), who is married with a child but has a particular fondness for Sin-Dee and Alexandra’s services, leaving his family Christmas dinner to search for them.
This film is most noteworthy for the fact that it was all captured on modified IPhone 5s. The camerawork is indeed impressive and the cinematography is of a very high standard, the fact that it was all essentially shot on a phone is rather surprising. It is also worth mentioning that even though this is set at Christmas, it all seems to be taking place in the middle of summer, with L.A.’s “tangerine” sky. This is brought up in the film (“Christmas should have snow!”) and surely, Tangerine is a very unique Christmas film!
The performances of Tangerine are really good and the cast play off each other quite well. James Ransone is funny as Sin-Dee’s pimp Chester and there is charming chemistry between Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor, the latter giving the most engaging performance. Taylor’s character Alexandra spends quite a bit of time on the sidelines, watching as everyone pays attention to Sin-Dee and don’t pay her much mind. Throughout the film, she hands out flyers for her evening singing performance and when the time comes, she clearly relishes the chance to sing, even though her performance is poorly attended, no-one asks her how it went and she had to pay the club in order to perform. There is definite loneliness about her and Mya Taylor shows this excellently.
The highlight of the film occurs towards the end during a scene set in a donut shop (where the whole film started). Essentially, all of the characters wind up there: Sin-Dee and Alexandra, Chester the pimp, the “other woman”, taxi driver Ramzik, his mother-in-law and his wife and child. Here, the film comes to a head, with all of the characters talking/shouting over each other and tying up all of the film’s threads. The scene is very engaging, being both comical and exciting.
On that note, there are some great one-liners and many scenes are quite funny. I also admire the fact that it all takes place in one day, much like Falling Down or Grandma.
It’s not a perfect film though as the dialogue is sometimes a bit cliched and as Sin-Dee, Kiki Rodriguez is sometimes too shrill and often a bit too melodramatic. The plot is also a little thin, interest does wane at certain points and the loud hip-hop music can be a nuisance. Finally, the film does seem quite “student film project-y” at times.
Great ensemble performances, especially from Mya Taylor, many enjoyable, funny moments and laudable camerawork, courtesy of Apple.
★ ★ ★ ★