Comedic drama, Tangerine, trails a day in the life of two transgender sex workers caught up in the hustle of the gritty LA scene. Shortly after Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) is released from a 28 day stint in prison, her best friend, Alexandra (Mya Taylor), spills that her boyfriend and pimp, Chester (James Ransone), has spent the last few weeks cheating on her with a cisgender woman. Enraged, Sin-Dee storms the neighbourhood in search of the two culprits.
Tangerine is unique in that it was entirely shot using a trio of iPhone 5s’ and anamorphic adapters. This approach was chosen to accommodate the film’s modest budget, but it also adds flavour with a gritty appearance that compliments the subject matter. Another key aspect of the Tangerine’s aesthetic is the highly saturated colours, which lend the film its name.
Tangerine is a no holds barred peek into the everyday lives of individuals often ostracized and overlooked by mainstream society. This honesty stems from the fact that writer/director, Sean Baker, adapted the script from real-life stories as told by its two lead actresses, whom he discovered on the corner of Santa Monica and Highland in Los Angeles.
Tangerine’s biggest fault is that despite an intense build up and mostly vivid cast, the final clash is comparatively anticlimactic. This can be attributed to the lacklustre portrayal of Chester, who fails to live up to the hype when he finally appears on screen.
The complexity and depth of Sin Dee and Alexandra is what makes Tangerine important. The women offer a welcome reprieve from the stigma that surrounds working girls - a demographic that generally gets screen time as a punchline or cautionary tale.