Starring Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez. Rated 18A.
Every personality, locale, and situation in Tangerine could be considered marginal. But nobody here cares about shit like that, bitch!
That’s the tone in this take-no-prisoners view of life in an L.A. with ’hos, pimps, cops, and fast food. Still, it comes out pretty damn funny in the hands of director Sean Baker and coscripter Chris Bergoch. The filmmakers, who previously worked together on the sub-indie Starlet and the TV series Greg the Bunny, here mix experienced actors with well-handled nonprofessionals.
The whole movie was shot on iPhones, with yellow filters and a frequently phenomenal wide-screen look that appears lifted from Steven Soderbergh’s better nightmares. This seeming gimmick lends great intimacy to a highly mobile tale more about texture than drama.
Drama is exactly what Alexandra (Mya Taylor) hopes to avoid when telling best pal Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez), fresh from a month in jail, that her pimp boyfriend took up with a “white fish” while she was away.
This sets off a chase through various unwholesome parts of town on an incongruous Christmas Eve, with our two trans sex workers acting as our potty-mouthed tour guides.
Despite the loose, mean-streets concept and a soundtrack that jump-cuts between classical music and bass-thumping electronica, the under-90-minute movie often feels like a stage play. There’s an iffy subplot with an Armenian cab driver (Karren Karagulian) unhappy with his traditional home life, but this artificial, connect-the-dots device pays off with pretty amusing cameos, especially by ex–Western star Clu Gulager as a drunken passenger.
When we finally meet Chester (James Ransone), he’s a laughable figure: a Kevin Federline who thinks he’s Ryan Gosling. His bit on the side (Mickey O’Hagan, who was with Ransone and Karagulian in Starlet) is no Scarlett Johansson, either.
But in the end you’re both amused and moved by the big-screen dreams of small-time hustlers who, whatever the margins, want love like everyone else.