A working girl tears through Tinseltown on Christmas Eve searching for the pimp who broke her heart.
Running Time: 1hr 28min
MPAA Rating: R
‘Tangerine’ tells a tough transgender story with humor
“Tangerine” is the wildest screwball transgender comedy since Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon donned lipstick, mascara and full-tilt female get-ups in “Some Like It Hot.” Director Sean Baker tosses aside good taste and common decency to create a little LGBT gem. His film is frenetically paced, sublimely strange, and admirably skillful at creating a funny Transformers parallel universe.
“Tangerine’s” stars are a twosome of talented first-time actresses, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor. Each is the epitome of a dumb blonde and rambunctious comedian. They play two sex workers halfway through male to female transition, sharing a breakfast doughnut the morning of Christmas Eve. Sin-Dee Rella (Rodriguez) has just been released from a 28-day stint in prison for drug possession. Her gal pal Alexandra (Taylor) is getting ready for a singing gig that evening at a local bar. Each finds that the day before Christmas is the time when everything can go wrong. Particularly Sin-Dee, who goes full woman-scorned after hearing that her pimp/boyfriend Chester (riotous James Ransone) forgot about their romance while she was inside.
The film spends 24 hectic hours following them as they race across the seediest neighborhoods of Los Angeles in search of happiness and humanity. If anyone could locate a silver lining in this strip of cheesy pastry shops, sleazy strip malls and dingy coin laundries, it’s this pair.
Characters like these leading ladies don’t appear in films very often. Transgender characters are usually portrayed as murderous psychopaths or self-contained jokes. What’s remarkable about the two hookers in focus is that they are instantly likable. Despite being criminal, unruly and profane, these marginalized characters are affectionate. That happens in part since Baker withholds contempt from the briskly paced story and partly because Rodriguez can dig out every laugh in the script.
And this ribald, raucous sex comedy is stacked high with laughs. Without entering spoiler territory there’s no way to discuss where on the sliding scale of misbehavior we encounter the cabdrivers, pimps, wives and Armenian mothers-in-law at the fringes of L.A.’s sex industry. “Tangerine” idealizes nobody, stereotypes nobody and scorns nobody. All the more remarkable for being entirely shot on an iPhone 5s, it should bore nobody in the audience, either.