Tangerine, from acclaimed director Sean Baker, played at Sundance to much fanfare. Everyone seemed excited that it was shot on an iPhone 5S, but the biggest thing nobody talked about was the story. Tangerine follows two transgendered prostitutes living in Los Angeles, and after twenty-eight days in prison, Sin-Dee finds out that her pimp boyfriend, Chester, has been cheating on her. From the moment Sin-Dee leaves the donut shop, we’re treated to an adrenaline-fueled trip.
Although the biggest keywords attached to the film are “iPhone” and “transgender,” it’s about a lot more than that. Once the film switches to its second act, you forget that Sin-Dee and her best friend Alexandra are transgender – the labels all fly out the door – you realize they’re people. The film allows us time to empathize with these characters and although the film’s message may not be about equality, leaving the film, it’s the first thing in your mind. These characters are real people with real feelings. Only a wonderful script can provide that sort of insight.
Kitana Kiki Rodrigues, who plays Sin-Dee, and Mya Taylor, who plays Alexandra, both do such an excellent job, it’s hard to believe they’re even acting. Their interactions with other characters make us feel as if we were eavesdropping — almost as if it were wrong.
Sin-Dee lusts for loyalty and stability, Alexandra yearns for attention, and by the end you can’t shake off that these two characters in such an unfortunate position want to be loved. Even the smallest characters in the film are three-dimensional. Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch have built a self-sufficient world captured within the lenses.
Tangerine is a stylistic tour-de-force. An original, dazzling, and unforgettable portrayal of betrayal and friendship that easily bests any other film this year. Sean Baker puts even the most seasoned auteurs to shame.