★★★★★ | Tangerine

Two transgender prostitutes tear up Santa Monica Boulevard in the brilliant new film ‘Tangerine.’

In a week that also sees the releases of Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs and Dame Maggie Smith inLady in a Van, Tangerine is far and above the best film of the three.

It is one of the most funny and original films of the year. and stars two transgender actresses in the lead roles, roles that will make them both stars.

Mya Taylor is Alexandra, and Kitana Kiki Rodriquez is Sin-Dee (yes, Sin-Dee), it’s Christmas Eve in Los Angeles, and Sin-Dee has just got out of jail after spending 28 days for holding drugs for her pimp boyfriend Chester (James Ransom). She finds out, from Alexandra, that Chester has been having sex with Dinah (Mickey O’Hagan), so Sin-Dee goes on a mission to find Dinah and then to confront Chester. And Alexandra is having her own drama – she’s performing at a local bar that night and has passed out fliers to everyone she knows. Meanwhile, she’s got one of her regular customers, Razmik (Karren Karaguilian), looking for her. Razmik has problems of his own, he’s attracted to transgender prostitutes, but he’s married with a young daughter at home. He’s also got his nosy mother-in-law visiting for the holidays.

Sin-Dee finds Dinah in a motel room with several other prostitutes and their naked male customers, so she literally kidnaps her and then heads to confront Chester. Alexandra, meanwhile, scuffles with a customer who doesn’t feel like he should pay her because he didn’t come. But she does have sex with Razmik in a brilliant uncut sex scene in a car wash. All these characters converge together at the local Donut Shop as they confront each other about infidelity in a very dramatic and hilarious ending. Tangerine is a Christmas tale not of the typical Christmas kind.

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Shot on three iphone 5s’ on a $105,000 budget, Tangerine is not the sort of movie you would expect to be dazzling, funny, dramatic, adventurous and original, but it is. Thanks to the many elements that bring this 88-minute film to fruition which make it so; the guerrilla style filmmaking is excellently created by Director, Editor, Co-Cinematographer and Co-Writer Sean Baker (co-written along with Chris Bergoch). And the actors are fantastic. Baker initially met Taylor at the Los Angeles Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Queer Community Center, and she introduced him to all her friends, including Rodriquez, which is how ‘Tangerine’ came to be, and these two actresses more than carry the movie, they are the movie, you can’t take your eyes off them. The rest of the cast is also brilliant; especially Karaguilian (who is a professional actor) brings sympathy to his role as a man trying to do the right thing but who also harbours a secret, and O’Hagan as the ‘other’ woman who is literally dragged around Los Angeles by Sin-Dee in the search for Chester. The Los Angeles neighborhood where this film is shot feels like another character in the film; the hued and hazzy skies, cheap motels, strange people and very cheap fast food restaurants litter the area. And the music (and script) is cutting edge; pulsating, loud, sharp, a perfect match for a film with characters who are the same, who spew lines such as, “He just went from half fag to full fag” to “You forget I’ve got a dick too,” with copious amounts of the word ‘bitch’ and ‘whore.’

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Tangerine is a smorgasbord of wit and sarcasm. It’s also brilliant and must be seen to be believed.

About the author: Tim Baros
Tim Baros writes film and theatre articles/ reviews for Pride Life and The American magazines and websites, as well as for Hereisthecity.com, Blu-RayDefinition.com and TheGayUK.com. He has also written for In Touch and TNT Magazines, SquareMile.com and LatinoLife.co.uk. He is a voting member for the UK Regional Critics Circle and the Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA – of which he is the UK representative). In addition, he has produced and directed two films: The Shirt and Rex Melville Desire: The Musical.