Star Rating:


Actors: Karren Karagulian, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor

Release Date: Friday 13th November 2015

Genre(s): Factual

Running time: 88 minutes

Zam! Bang! Wallop! Pow! goes Tangerine, an indie film shot solely on iPhones. This pacey and punchy Duplass Brothers production (Your Sister’s Sister, Safety Not Guaranteed) boasts zippy Tarantino dialogue from Gregg Araki lowlifes of transgender prostitutes and pimps.

Having just spent a month inside for drug possession, Sin-Dee (Kiki-Rodriguez) is back on the streets to learn that her pimp boyfriend (a wonderful James Ransone channelling Trailer Park Boys’ J-Roc) was cheating on her with ‘fish’ (a ‘real’ woman). An incensed Sin-Dee stomps up and down Hollywood Boulevard on Christmas Eve to track down this ‘bitch’ whose name is either Danielle or Desree or Dinah (O’Hagan) or something. Meanwhile, best friend Alexandra (Taylor) hopes to pull together an audience for her singing debut in a bar downtown.

Director Sean Baker shoots on the fly, cut-cut-cutting his way through the story, jamming the soundtrack in willy nilly (there must be seven different thumping tunes in the first ten minutes alone), refusing to let anything settle down for a moment; there is simply no respite from the rapid-fire insults while the handheld camera following this hunt about town gives the simple story real pace. But this rough and ready nature works in its favour and Baker finds real warmth in the noise.

Because underneath the nastiness, behind the profanity and the cruel comments, there is genuine love to be found - friendship in the middle of all this mess is at the heart of Tangerine. Sin-Dee might be stoned when she takes love rival Dinah into a bathroom to gently touch up her makeup but there is genuine affection in the gesture and that paves the way for a touching finale that would feel tacked on if Baker hadn’t worked hard to subtly plant in moments of real fondness. Not that Baker gets too cosy: Dinah’s denouement is a stark reminder that these girls live hand-to-mouth.

The parallel plot involving cabdriver Razmik (Karagulian) trawling the streets for Sin-Dee when he should be at home helping wife (Luiza Nersisyan) and domineering mother-in-law (Alla Tumanian) prepare Christmas dinner works less well. It takes time too much time for the two stories to find each other, resulting only in a climax that’s more for Razmik than it is for Sin-Dee.

Short and snappy, funny and touching, daring and accessible, Tangerine, named after the colour of the LA sunset, is a treat.