Sin-Dee(Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) has just been released from a 28 day stint in prison. She and Alexandra(Mya Taylor), her best friend and fellow prostitute, catch up over a donut, which is all she can afford. Alexandra reveals that Chester(James Ransone), Sin-Dee’s pimp and boyfriend, cheated on her with another girl, a genetic female. Sin-Dee and Alexandra are pre-op trans
gender women. Alexandra gives up the name of the offending woman, Dinah(Mickey O’Hagen), and Sin-Dee storms off on a mission to find her. Thus starts “Tangerine,” an emotionally bristling portrait of a transsexual, sex trade sub-culture, in a wounded Los Angeles neighborhood.
This movie takes place through the course of one Christmas Eve day, where Sin-Dee is off to enact vengeance on Dinah and confront Chester. Alexandra and Sin-Dee part ways, creating two separate story lines, one full of desperation and another of expectation.
Along the way, we are introduced to another plot line, involving cab driver, Razmik(Karren Karagulian), an Armenian emigrant, husband and father. Razmik’s purpose is not immediately known, but he is the girls most loyal patron. Throughout the story, we see he is concealing a secret life, one that if exposed in his homeland would have him violently ostracized, and one that is not widely accepted in general. There is a large Armenian community in this Los Angeles suburb, so the inclusion adds realism to the gestalt of the narrative.
Razmik is introduced in clips of his fares, by which he is humanized and we are drawn to him. As his character develops, his conflicted nature is drawn out and we share that along with him. Razmik provides and protects his actual family, while secretly gratifying his own needs, and the transsexual prostitutes provide him his release.
This film is devoid of extraneous extra characters, personifying the loneliness of the character’s lives. This is exemplified in two contrasting scenes, one where Sin-Dee finally finds Dinah and drags her through the streets, and no one pays any mind. The other is where Alexandra, pacing in front of an empty club where she is going to sing, realizes she is alone in her desire to make something of her life. Alexandra has been handing out “flyers” and reminding her “friends” to come and see her perform. To a one, they all say they’ll be there, but none show up, including Sin-Dee.
Sin-Dee does show up, very late, with a battered Dinah in tow. They sit and watch Alexandra sing. This heartwarming scene, Alexandra lights up with a passion she has for singing, a departure from the aggressive life she lives. The dream-like quality of this moment connects us with Alexandra in a way that we want her to find a way out of her depressed lifestyle. It isn’t lost on the filmmakers that she sings “Toyland,” as a sarcastic metaphor for her life.
From here, we are thrust back into the chaos of the dreary streets and on the prowl for Chester. Chester, a degenerate of false street cred, is confronted in of all places, a donut shop. Here all the major characters are drawn into a scene full of secrets revealed, smashing realities, and truths told.
The denouement brings Sin-Dee and Alexandra back together in a touching scene where they realize both of them will always be a family and care for each other no matter what happens.
Peppered with hilarious moments, as well as pathos, “Tangerine” is rooted in a voyeuristic empathy for the sacrifice of these pre-surgery, transgender prostitutes, and human emotion for all the inhabitants of this society’s underbelly.
The pulse of this film, shot completely using Apple’s iPhone 5s, increases as the plot moves along. The raw edge and graininess of the film, adds a gritty element further defining the desperation of that segment of society, and the hopelessness of the lead characters.
Executive Producers, Mark and Jay Duplass(Duplass Brothers Productions) employed many transgender actors and actresses for the production of this film. Distributed by Magnolia Pictures, “Tangerine,” is available for rent from your cable or satellite provider, for purchase on Blu-Ray and DVD, and on Netflix.
mir, irini, peace, amn,