Tangerine (2015; Sean Baker)
By Daniel Barnes
A relatively minor up-all-night comedy elevated to the status of a significant breakthrough by casting transgender performers in the roles of transgender prostitutes, and by refraining from ever psychoanalyzing or judging them. Meanwhile, harsh judgment gets rightly reserved for the pimps and johns.
Just out of rehab, Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) learns on Christmas Eve from her friend Alexandra (Mya Taylor) that her pimp/boyfriend has been cheating on her with a blonde “fish.” While enraged Sin-Dee tears like a hurricane through the seediest back alleys and donut shops of Santa Monica Blvd. in an attempt to find him, an Armenian cab driver/customer leaves his family to track Sin-Dee down.
Shooting on an iPhone, co-writer/director Sean Baker (Starlet) gives Tangerine a kinetic immediacy and sustains a high level of energy throughout. However, he frequently mistakes chaos for humor, and too many scenes devolve into nonsensical screeching matches, like a Dreamgirls with better wigs.
Still, any director who can merge compassion, intensity, and no-holds-barred attitude with such skill is a filmmaker with significant potential.