Movie review of “Tangerine”: Shot entirely on an iPhone, this visceral, visually exciting film deals with transgender sex workers getting through Christmas Eve on the streets of Los Angeles. Rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.
The exciting “Tangerine” has received notoriety for being shot with an iPhone outfitted with a panoramic lens.
The result is something to behold. There is a startling immediacy to the look of co-writer and director Sean Baker’s independent film. An electrifying color saturation creates such visual rhymes as sunrise-blond hair set against a building aglow with afternoon light.
Baker (“Starlet”) brings a liberating, visceral energy to much of “Tangerine” — sometimes just by speed-walking that iPhone down a sidewalk — that belies the story’s dead-end environment: a rundown neighborhood in Los Angeles where transgender sex workers get through hard days.
Movie Review ★★★½
‘Tangerine,’ with Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor, James Ransone, Karren Karagulian. Directed by Sean Baker, from a screenplay by Baker and Chris Bergoch. 88 minutes. Rated R for sexual situations, drug use, language. SIFF Cinema Egyptian.
This particular day in “Tangerine,” however, happens to be Christmas Eve, a detail that will help set the tone for the film’s finale.
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Baker hits the ground running with an opening scene that finds Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez), just released from a short jail stint, informed by her friend Alexandra (Mya Taylor) that Sin-Dee’s pimp and boyfriend (James Ransone) has been cheating on her with a non-transgender woman.
Exploding onto the gritty streets, Sin-Dee goes in search of her man and his new girlfriend to exact revenge. After failing to cool Sin-Dee down, Alexandra has a disastrous assignation with a cabdriver (Karren Karagulian) but encourages passers-by to hear her sing at a club later that night.
Baker never mocks or oversells these characters and their flaws, setting the stage for an unexpectedly touching resolution that makes “Tangerine” something of an oddball Christmas fable.