Synopsis: A working girl tears through Tinseltown on Christmas Eve searching for the pimp who broke her heart.
Release Date: July 17, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Comedy, Drama
The name Duplass seems to be one that movie fans can’t get away from – or get enough of. Mark Duplass has been a star on the little screen in “The League” as well as on the big screen in horror movies like Creep and The Lazarus Effect. Behind the camera, Duplass has directed feature films like Jeff, Who Lives at Home and the television show “Togetherness.” As producers, Mark and his brother Jay have been even more active, bringing movies like The Overnight, The Skeleton Twins, Adult Beginners, and many more to theaters. The newest movie to carry the Duplass Brothers name as producers is the quirky indie dramedy Tangerine.
Set against the backdrop of Christmas Eve in Los Angeles, Tangerine is about a prostitute named Sin-Dee (newcomer Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) who has just been released from the jail where she has spent the last 28 days. Sin-Dee is happy to be out, but her joy is short lived when she hears that her pimp boyfriend, Chester (James Ransone from Sinister and Oldboy), has been cheating on her while she’s been locked up. All they know about Chester’s mistress is that her name starts with a D, but that doesn’t stop Sin-Dee and her transgender friend, Alexandra (singer Mya Taylor), from roaming the city looking for the pimp and the homewrecker. Meanwhile, an Armenian cab driver named Razmik (Prince of Broadway‘s Karren Karagulian) works the night away, seemingly trying to avoid his family on the holiday evening. Eventually, everyone’s night intersects, along with that of a girl named Dinah (Dealing‘s Mickey O’Hagan), a name that happens to start with a D.
With Tangerine, director Sean Baker (Starlet, Prince of Broadway) has made a very intriguing film, even if it’s not always entirely successful. The screenplay was written by Baker and his writing buddy, Chris Bergoch (who also wrote Starlet with Baker), but much of the character of the film is due to the magnetism and charisma of the cast, particularly that of Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor. Sean Baker actually met Rodriguez through Taylor and cast her as the lead of the film because of the chemistry and camaraderie that she and Taylor possessed. For the rest of the cast, Baker basically used actors with whom he was already familiar through working with them on his other movies (Karren Karagulian is a staple figure in Baker’s films). The film is set in a neighborhood in Los Angeles near where Rodriguez and Taylor live, and the city actually becomes a character in and of itself; Baker captures the comfort and familiarity of the locale for the pair, yet still manages to make the neighborhood seem seedy and dangerous. All of this contributes to a very authentic and real-feeling movie set on the streets of Los Angeles.
Which brings up the visual style of the film. In a way, Tangerine is an exercise is guerilla filmmaking, shot handheld in a run-and-gun style that gives the movie an air of urgency and energy. It’s an interesting experiment, but it doesn’t always work. The street scenes with Sin-Dee and Alexandria are compelling enough, but the scenes with Razmik the cabbie derail what little narrative the film has going for it. When the different scenarios and situations finally do come together, it feels forced and contrived. Yes, everything ends up in the same place, but it’s not very satisfying.
Tangerine isn’t a complete waste of time. It’s worth seeing just for the colorful characters and the experimental technical aspects of the film. Just don’t get your hopes up for a well-rounded story. Tangerine is a decent document of a night in the life of a group of street urchins and prostitutes, but it won’t be remembered for the storyline.
There’s some interesting stuff going on within the cinematography of Tangerine. The most groundbreaking thing about the film is that fact that it was shot entirely on a couple of iPhone 5s. This allowed Sean Baker and cinematographer Radium Cheung (“The Americans”) to travel light and shoot on-the-go, helping them to give the film a cinema vérité, fly-on-the-wall feel. Now, the iPhone thing may seem like a cheap gimmick, and it is, but that does not mean that Tangerine looks like a cheap film. The iPhones that Baker and Cheung used were outfitted with prototype anamorphic lenses and Steadicam mounts so that, while the film has a handheld, fluid look, the images are very cinematic and striking – the look of the film is raw and grainy, but in an extremely artistic way. With Tangerine, Sean Baker proves that a cheaply made film doesn’t have to look that way.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Sean Baker
- Producer(s): Sean BakerKarrie CoxMarcus CoxDarren DeanShih-Ching Tsou
- Screenwriter(s): Sean BakerChris Bergoch
- Cast: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez (Sin-Dee)Mya Taylor (Alexandra)Karren Karagulian (Razmik) Mickey O’Hagan (Dinah)James Ransone (Chester)Arsen Grigoryan (Karo)Clu Gulager (The Cherokee)Ana Foxx (Selena)Scott Krinsky (Parsimonious John)
- Editor(s): Sean Baker
- Cinematographer: Sean BakerRadium Cheung
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Shih-Ching Tsou
- Casting Director(s): Sean BakerChris Bergoch
- Music Score:
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA