There’s no hope in Tangerine. It’s not a completely negative film–and it’s often quite funny–but there’s no hope. Director Baker leaves the most devastating part of the film in the viewer’s mind. The movie ends. The lives of the characters do not; Baker goes out of his way with these beautiful montages set to a various types of music to give the viewer time to consider, to anticipate, to reflect on the film’s contradiction. Baker never asks the viewer to empathize, even when a character’s sympathetic, likable.
The film is about a prostitute (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez), fresh out of jail, hunting down her cheating boyfriend slash pimp. Her quest gets her best friend (Mya Taylor) involved, but it also ties into the life of one of their customers, a cabbie.
The cabbie, played by Karren Karagulian, gets to do the most dramatic acting for the first act of Tangerine. Rodriguez is this uncontrollable force raging down the Los Angeles blocks with Taylor’s failure to contain her funny but also scary. Baker’s very careful about how he follows Rodriguez and Taylor–they’re the world, everything else is background, but dangerous background.
Baker and co-writer Chris Bergoch forecast a lot of the plot but against the viewer’s anticipation; it seems too much, but then Tangerine delivers.
Amazing acting from Taylor, Rodriguez and Karagulian. Great writing; not just the scenes and the plotting, but how Baker and Bergoch so perfectly set up the ground situation.
Tangerine’s depressing, reassuring, mundane, magnificent.
Edited and directed by Sean Baker; written by Baker and Chris Bergoch; directors of photography, Baker and Radium Cheung; produced by Baker, Karrie Cox, Marcus Cox, Darren Dean and Shih-Ching Tsou; released by Magnolia Pictures.
Starring Kitana Kiki Rodriguez (Sin-Dee), Mya Taylor (Alexandra), Karren Karagulian (Razmik), Mickey O’Hagan (Dinah), James Ransone (Chester), Alla Tumanian (Ashken), Luiza Nersisyan (Yeva), Arsen Grigoryan (Karo), Ian Edwards (Nash), Ana Foxx (Selena) and Clu Gulager (The Cherokee).