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  Tangerine Hollywood Babble On
Year: 2015
Director: Sean Baker
Stars: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor, Karren Karagulian, Mickey O'Hagan, James Ransone, Alla Tumanian, Luiza Nersisyan, Arsen Grigoryan, Ian Edwards, Clu Gulager, Ana Foxx, Scott Krinsky, Chelcie Lynn, Shih-Ching Tsou, Josh Sussman
Genre: Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) and Alexandra (Mya Taylor) are best friends, and also prostitutes working the Hollywood area. It’s Christmas Eve and Alexandra wants people to come to her show that evening where she will be singing, so has been handing out flyers to that effect, but when she sits down with Sin-Dee in a diner she has no idea the can of worms she is about to open when she lets slip that their pimp, Chester (James Ransone), has a girlfriend. This is news to Sin-Dee, who thought she was his girlfriend, and the more she turns this information the more incensed she becomes, plus to add insult to injury this other woman isn’t even transgender like she and Alexandra are...

Director Sean Baker (creator of television puppet show Greg the Bunny) won more interest in Tangerine for the technology he used to film it than he did for casting so many transgender actresses, for it was basically captured on three iPhones, which though modified made this barely one step up from a home movie if what such cameras were usually used for was taken into account. Yet this really caught on as a hip attraction, a black comedy seeing its two heroines stomp and strut around Los Angeles, one wishing to drum up interest in her show, the other on the warpath to seek out both Chester and the prostitute he has been cheating on her with. There wasn't much of a plot, it had to be said, but Baker was more interested in character.

Unfortunately, you did need a high tolerance for shrill arguing as much of this played out, with Sin-Dee in particular one of the most confrontational personalities in twenty-first century cinema, and that was saying something. Peppering her dialogue with about a billion mentions of the word "bitch", she was not someone you would want to mess with, or indeed ever so much as get into a conversation with as she came across as someone who would start chewing your ear off eventually, ranting and rattling off lines like Damon Wayans at his most overexcitable. By contrast, Alexandra was frequently sounding a note of sanity, a more measured presence, though there is a reason for that as we discover nearer to the end.

There was another main player here, and he was transsexual fan Razmik (Karren Karagulian), a taxi driver who spends his spare cash on getting sexual satisfaction he does not get with his wife (Luisa Nersisyan), who he has a small child with, which doesn't exactly endear him to the audience. But he was mostly there as a figure of fun, a supposedly respectable family man leading a double life that by and by that family will discover because he can't keep it in his pants for long before nosing around for more jollies. Early on, he seems quite sensible, and we’re sorry for him when someone throws up in his cab, but soon after he is performing oral sex on Alexandra in a car wash and we realise his true colours.

Of course, what this leads to is more shouting, which can wear on the nerves, and that's without mentioning the other thread where Sin-Dee tracks down her love rival to a motel room brothel and drags her out kicking and screaming. She is Dinah (Mickey O'Hagan), and at first denies all knowledge as she is yanked down the street, but Sin-Dee does indeed have the right gal, and she becomes an extremely reluctant companion to her as the night draws on. It's all building to a confrontation in a doughnut shop, which as you can imagine is as brash and obnoxious as the rest of it as Razmik on the prowl winds up there - as does his mother-in-law (Alla Tumanian), wife and daughter. Just as the haranguing is reaching critical mass and you're considering these are the people you'd cross the street to avoid, Baker did an interesting thing, he toned it down, and drew things to a contemplative close that was actually pretty touching as after all that self-parody we can see the human side of Sin-Dee and Alexandra at least, if maybe not so much the others. And that cinematography didn't look so bad in comparison to many shot on digital low-budgeters.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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