Tangerine (R) | Close-Up Film Review


Dir. Sean Baker, US, 2015, 88 mins, English

Cast. Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor, Karren Karagulian, Mickey O’Hagan, James Ransone

“You didn’t have to Chris Brown the b*tch!”

Sean Baker’s comedy-drama is an assault on the senses in the best sense of the word.

With an exposition that induces an implosion of the mind Tangerine is visually innovative and not easily dismissed.

Perhaps the pre-screening doughnuts should have been a clue, but just keep in mind the deep significance that a single $2 doughnut has in a film that, among other things, discusses transgender issues, sexuality, adultery and prostitution to name a few things. However, rather brilliantly, the film does not judge, something that only elevates a film of this nature.

With cinematography and a visual aesthetic better resembling a 90s music video (fast, choppy editing and frequent swipes) Tangerine knows exactly what it is doing. Moving very quickly from solid shot-reverse-shots to sweeping panoramic angles and tight close-ups, there is such variety in the film’s visual scope. In this way the film enables the camera to work as another tertiary character, removing It from its more traditional omnipresent role in advancing the plot, enabling a dramatic revaluation of the camera and for the maintenance of the quick tempo of the films rapidly unraveling plotline.

Adopting much of the nomenclature and mannerisms seen so commonly throughout contemporary pop culture to brilliant comedic effect, this, in conjunction with the film’s electric soundtrack will ensure Tangerine is not a film audiences will soon forget.

Celebrating and revering black sass in all of its hilarious glory, audiences will soon fall in love with Sin-Dee [Rella] (newcomer Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) and Alexandra (Mya Taylor) as their intertwined stories unfold onscreen in very dramatic fashion. For two acting novices, what they clearly lack in experience, they more than make up for in comedic chops and lovability. You immediately empathise for their characters whether or not you understand their actions throughout the film’s tiny 88 minutes. With wildly funny quips such as “his breath always seems as if he has been eating a** for days!” or Alexandra: the world can be cruel place. To which Sin-Dee replies: “I know, God gave me a d*ck!”, how can you not pay attention to such sharp tongued women?

Rather unexpectedly, the film then begins a parallel storyline to the women, with the story of a low-key Taxi driver, Razmik (Karren Karagulian), whose significance in the narrative will become increasingly clear as the films unfolds, he himself also suffers his own series of mishaps and misunderstandings throughout.

Dialogue is used as the main expository device and is the single motivator in maintaining tempo. It becomes somewhat hard to comprehend in the midst of the films drama that all of the film’s action takes place over one day, and what a day it was for these best friends and fellow prostitutes on this crazy Christmas Eve.

To describe such a film would be too simple and a reduction of all that Tangerine is and stands for. Although we can reveal that the film, in part, is the of the tale of Sin-Dee’s attempt to find her boyfriend and pimp Chester (played by 2015‘s Sinister 2 James Ransone) after she is released for a short stint in jail, whilst at the same time trying to uncover whether rumours of his infidelity are true. However what unsuspecting audiences are pleasantly greeted with, and party to, is an electrifying thrill ride over one long day as Sin-Dee attempts to find a women named Dinah (played by Mickey O’Hagan).

And the doughnuts you say. What is the significance of the doughnuts?

Well, the film’s dramatic climax between all involved parties at the downtown ‘Donut Time’ store will more than convince you why the doughnut in many respects is probably the best indicator of things to come.

As earlier sentiments about Los Angeles resembling a ‘beautifully wrapped lie’ become increasingly true, more than one secret is revealed, as there will be broken hearts all around on this absorbing, snowless Christmas Eve.

Review by Rayvenn Shaleigha D’Clark

Tangerine was premiered at the 2015 London Film Festival on October 9th and will be released in cinemas on November 13th.