Film Review: Tangerine

The barrier to the film industry is getting lower and lower. It all began with the internet. Once people were able to look up how easy or how profitable it was to be in the film industry, everyone wanted to jump on the bandwagon. Investors were throwing cash at filmmakers, and the market became saturated with a wide-range of films from art house to bikini zombies.

But now, investors and companies are more interested in a profit than a cameo role on the set of an indie film. This forces filmmakers to be more innovative and ruthless in their approach to distributing a film. Enter Tangerine: the new indie comedy completely filmed with three iPhone 5s’ over the course of 22 days. While it did use some sophisticated technology like the FiLMiC Pro App ($10), Moondog Labs Adapter ($160), and a Steadicam Smoothee ($149.95), you can see how accessible the film industry has become to making high quality products.

But aside from all of the tech talk and low-budget murmurings, at the base of it all, you would not have all of this positivity if it wasn’t for an entertaining and funny story. Rolling Stone called Tangerine the “transgender revenge comedy of the year.” While I don’t disagree that the film is funny, I have to ask: What other transgender revenge comedies came out this year to compare it to?

* * * * *

The film begins with two transgender prostitutes, Sin-Dee and Alexandra, meeting at Donut Time, a favorite hangout, on Christmas Eve. Sin-Dee has just gotten out of prison and is celebrating with half a donut with her best friend. But the conversation unfolds quickly when Alexandra accidentally lets it slip that Sin-Dee’s boyfriend and pimp, Chester, cheated on her while she was away.

Sin-Dee is not taking this sitting down. She grabs her bag and a full-on chase begins as she tracks down the “bottom-b****” who replaced her, Dana. Alexandra wants no part of this chase so goes off on her own way to promote her performance that night at a club. She has flyers printed and gives them to every single friend she comes across to remind them she sings at 7pm sharp. But her hopes for a captivated audience dwindle as the night wears on.

The story is not complete without another player. Razmik is a taxi driver who trolls the streets of LA supporting his family who has just moved from Armenia and also looking for transgender prostitutes to spend some time with. He’s good friends with Sin-Dee and Alexandra, so when their lives (and other halves) all come together, it’s an explosive moment with high tensions and hilarious moments.

The film is the perfect allegory for “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” but as Alexandra poignantly points out, “you forgot, I got a d***, too.” These one-liners and pure absurdity make the film fun to watch. Just when you think it can’t get more unreal, ridiculous, or realistic, it takes a turn and becomes a true film about friendship.

It’s not often that a film strikes gold. But between the story of how this film was made for $100,000 and how Sean Baker found his cast by using Vine and Instagram, the humor and acting is so natural that you would never believe these weren’t trained actors with a script in front of them.

Flawlessly acted and hilariously written, Tangerine is a unique breath of fresh air to the stagnant box office. Here is hoping more unique voices emerge in the industry and break through the saturated and over-populated pond of ideas to get their place in the spotlight.

4 out of 5 stars

*Warning, this trailer is a Red Band Trailer and may not be appropriate for all audiences.

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