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Released in 2015
Directed by Sean Baker
TL;DR – If you get through the first 15 minutes you are in for an experience unlike any you have had before. “Tangerine” handles the dirty underworld of prostitution in such a realistic and compelling way, handling tone perfectly with the music, gorgeous cinematography and excellent casting. 10/10
***REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS***
I really, really hated the first 10-15 minutes of “Tangerine.” It felt like a hyper-active youtube video, with quick cuts, lots of profanity and a drama story about a girl who’s looking for her boyfriend.
But man does this film go down the rabbit hole quick. We soon find out that Cindee, the girl looking for her boyfriend is a transgendered prostitute, and her “boyfriend” is a pimp and the reason she’s looking for him is because she just got out of jail. The friend Cindee is complaining to, Alexandra, is also a transgendered prostitute and she agrees to help her find “Chester” as long as there is no drama. But of course, that can’t be the case.
What follows is encounters with a plethora of characters from an Armenian cab driver and his family, to drug dealers, prostitutes, police officers and pimps. Every character in the film feels real, you learn just enough about their back story to care about all of them, even the minor characters such as the cops that let Alexandra off when she attempts to get her money from a John. It’s well written, funny, and incredibly dark.
As I said before, it’s very high energy, the camera flies around the actors and scenes, through windows and doors, making quick cuts between characters as they converse, or notice small details around them. The film feels like LA, it’s very yellow, you can almost feel the heat and everything is in nearly tack-sharp focus. This movie was filmed on 3 iPhone 5s’, and you would never, ever guess that.
The music in the first half is a lot of hip-hop and rap, which is exactly what I was expecting from a film like this. But then, when the filmmaker decides that there needs to be a shift in tone it is faded masterfully in to ambient synth, strings and even classical music. It’s not jarring at all, when combined with the narrative, subject matter and what’s on the screen.
You get so wrapped up in the characters and what’s happening that you don’t even notice the 90 minutes that flew by. I was shocked when the credits rolled. The last 15 minutes of the film had – no joke – some of the most stunning visuals I have seen since “Beyond the Black Rainbow.” When things finally slow down from the break neck pace that the entire film had been running at, you’re treated to incredible composition and color, and the emotional weight of everything you’ve just witnessed hits you like a punch in the stomach.
This film made me want to go make my own movie. It took a simple premise and poured fascinating characters, complete with hearts and souls, wants and dreams right in to your un-expecting lap. And the film makes an effort to show you little things that gives you insights in to the characters, one series of events in particular that end in a car wash not only carry amazing gravitas and character development but are also filmed beautifully.