Tangerine tells the story of a pair of transgender working girls, best friends Alexandra and Sin-Dee. With the latter just released from prison in time for Christmas day, the two meet up in a diner and Alexandra accidentally lets slip that Sin-Dee's pimp boyfriend has been cheating on her.
What follows is a tenacious romp through the backstreets of Tinseltown, as Sin-Dee attempts to hunt down her ex and the woman who has been the cause of his digressions – as Alexandra follows in her wake, begging her not to cause any "Drama". At the same time we follow a local Armenian taxi driver as he navigates Sunset Boulevard, encountering a comical smorgasbord of Christmas day passengers as they clamber into his cab.
Utterly free of judgement, Baker's film takes us on a journey through the struggles and joys of marginalised trans people in American society. Crime, prostitution and drug abuse are touched on in a candid snapshot of life on the streets.
The unusual production of Baker's film is also striking. The entire of Tangerine was shot using just three iPhone cameras: a fact Baker managed to keep secret until its Sundance release earlier this year. The film's handheld quality manages, along with the thumping score, to give Baker's film a note of urgency and modernity – without overshadowing its narrative. Baker's protagonists are so engaging that they completely absorb our attention with humour and vivacity throughout.
The heady and intoxicating heat of the L.A. sun thanks to Baker's glaring, rough-hewn cinematography makes us feel as if we, like the characters, are either leering at the scantily dressed sex workers on the California curb or strutting fiercely along beside them. Baker constantly surprises his audience, taking them on an exhilarating odyssey through Tangerine's subcultural backwaters. Fierce yet surprisingly charming, Tangerine manages in the same breath to reflect the joys and commonplace abuses that sex-workers experience on Californian curb-sides.
The most unconventional Christmas film you'll see this year, there's not much tinsel here in tinseltown, but Tangerine does leave its viewers feeling its warmth and humour long after the credits roll. Sin-Dee and Alexandra's gender never feels like Tangerine's main concern: Baker's film is preoccupied with showing all the challenges of impoverished life on the streets, whilst presenting a warm portrait of female friendship.
Witty, charming and fiery, Tangerine should – and no doubt will – trigger a wider cultural conversation about the marginalisation of trans culture in modern cinema. If you think Tangerine isn't for you, think again: this rip-roaring ride through Sunset Boulevard is a surprisingly accessible.
|What||Tangerine film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
13 Nov 15 – 29 Feb 16, 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM
|Price||£ determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here to go to the Tangerine IMDB page|