Film review: Tangerine shines a glorious light on transgender culture
Shot entirely on iPhones, Tangerine largely disregards traditional narrative structure and pulsates with a raw, untameable energy
In the year when transgender culture made headlines around the world, Sean Baker’s micro-budget drama shines a spotlight on their unique experience in electrifying fashion. Playing out over Christmas Eve at the trashy end of LA’s West Hollywood, trans streetwalker Sin-dee Rella (Kitana “Kiki” Rodriguez) – just released from jail – scours the neighbourhood for her pimp/boyfriend after discovering she’s been cheated on.
Loud, confrontational and wildly unpredictable, Sin-dee is barely kept in line by her long-suffering friend and fellow trans sex worker Alexandra (Mya Taylor). Her quest for recognition and acceptance fuels every aspect of her personality, and the larger-than-life performance from real-life trans actress Rodriguez is a force of nature that simply defies criticism.
Produced by mumblecore pioneers the Duplass Brothers and shot entirely on iPhones, Tangerine largely disregards traditional narrative structure and pulsates with a raw, untameable energy. Populated almost entirely by hookers, pimps, johns and addicts, it is applaudably non-judgmental, providing unprecedented exposure to trans performers, while never letting the issue take control of the narrative.
The film is a brilliant depiction of the local community, its ethnic and sexual diversity, even exploring the complex relationship these women have with local law enforcement. Hilarious, outrageous and incredibly mature, you can almost feel the new ground being broken with every stiletto-clad step Sin-dee takes.
The best LA Christmas movie since Die Hard, Tangerine is destined to become a landmark in American independent cinema. It is absolutely essential viewing.
Tangerine opens on October 22