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

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.