Every so often, a film comes along that explodes in front of you. I’m not talking Marvel-style slick CGI explosions. I’m talking Ru Paul and Beyonce’s love child, who happens to be raised by Devine. 'Tangerine' is definitely more explosive than you would have ever imagined.
It’s Christmas Eve, and Sin-Dee Rella has just gotten out of prison. Sin-Dee and her best friend Alexandra, both trans women sex workers, meet at a donut shop in West Hollywood to celebrate her freedom. It is in this moment that Alexandra drops the bombshell that Chester, Sin-Dee’s boyfriend, has been cheating on her while she was in prison and (much to her dismay) has been cheating with a cisgendered woman. All the while Razmik, a married Armenian cab driver, drives his clients around, syphoning off some money to splash at the girls. His wife might be oblivious to his wanderings, but his mother-in-law certainly isn’t.
This might seem like a convoluted plot, but if anything it reads more like an opera, often having the heightened senses and drama of one as well. Right from the beginning there is something different and engaging about 'Tangerine'. It is equal parts music video, drama, comedy, cop show and Jerry Springer without Steve the security guard. It is wickedly funny and the writing is so strong, it’s easy to see why it caused such a stir at the Sundance Film Festival.
'Tangerine's' budget was tiny, a minuscule $100,000, which makes it all the more impressive. You wouldn’t know that it was shot entirely on three iPhone 5S’s from looking at it. It’s been so seamlessly edited that it puts a lot of bigger budget films to shame. It’s the small production feeling that probably injected so much heart into the film. When you see the producer's name also next to the costume designer, you know it’s been all hands on deck.
You wouldn’t know that it was shot entirely on three iPhone 5S’s from looking at it.
The performances are fierce. So fierce. You wouldn’t want to mess with any of these girls, and they certainly know how to hold their own. In a world that rejects them for their skin colour, sexual identity and sexual orientation, they are in as much control as they can be, often throwing back in the world's face – making us question our own prejudices. They don’t have it easy and turn to a life of drugs and sex work in order to get by. What is most touching is that underneath all of the diva-like behavior, there is a true tone of caring and connection. They might be rejected by society, but these ladies have each other.
Films don’t often come around that change the landscape, but this is one of the rare few that could - a triumph in what can be achieved, even from the most humble of means. For an outrageously funny time and a mind-bending, heartwarming and fish-serving film, you can’t go past something as sweet and juicy as ‘Tangerine’.