OCFF Review: ‘TANGERINE’ Packs A Punch & Delivers An Unforgettable Knockout

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Preston Barta // Features Editor

TANGERINE | 88 min | R

Director: Sean Baker
Writer: Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch
Cast: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor, Karren Karagulian, Mickey O’Hagan and James Ransone

There’s a reason people call it “buzz,” which TANGERINE is already generating a lot of. The air in the Texas Theatre crackled with an electric fever as the lights came up and the end credits rolled off the screen for festivalgoers at the 2015 Oak Cliff Film Festival last night. The crowd reactions seemed to flow in sympathetic directions: shock and stunned silence.

The world of prostitution and gender roles is foreign to some, and even vile to others. TANGERINE may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but the beauty that everyone should find in it is how different and unique it is. It drops you in the underbelly of Los Angeles and takes you on a thrilling adventure with two of the most fun and lovable characters.

Shot exclusively on iPhone 5s, TANGERINE presents a simple yet effective story. It tells of two transgender prostitutes working the blocks around Santa Monica and Highland in L.A. Sin-Dee Rella (a killer Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) is fresh out of a prison stint on Christmas Eve when her best friend, Alexandra (a sidesplitting Mya Taylor), brings up that her pimp/boyfriend, Chester (Jason Ransone), has been sleeping with a woman (Mickey O’Hagan). Thus, leading Sin-Dee to tear through the city to find and confront him.

Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez star in TANGERINE. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez star in TANGERINE. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

This is a smartly written and constructed piece with juicy characters who’ll claw at your heartstrings. You’ll laugh with them; you will admire their courageous spirit; and you’ll feel their pain, frustration and shame. Rodriguez and Taylor have a screen presence with a real sting, portraying flawed human characters that audiences simultaneously pity and hold in high regard. The two ladies are infectious as they are complex and nuanced.

Sure, sadly, not everyone will be able to stomach TANGERINE. If, however, you want to experience the prime example of the highest form of art, then you’ll benefit from seeing this remarkable film. It packs a punch and delivers a knockout that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

TANGERINE releases on July 10.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.