It's Christmas Eve in Tinseltown and Sin-Dee (newcomer Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) is back on the block. Upon hearing that her pimp boyfriend (James Ransone, STARLET, "Generation Kill") hasn't been faithful during the 28 days she was locked up, the sex worker and her best friend, Alexandra (newcomer Mya Taylor), embark on a mission to get to the bottom of the scandalous rumor. Their rip-roaring odyssey leads them through various subcultures of Los Angeles, including an Armenian family dealing with their own repercussions of infidelity. Director Sean Baker's prior films (STARLET, PRINCE OF BROADWAY) brought rich texture and intimate detail to worlds seldom seen on film. TANGERINE follows suit, bursting off the screen with energy and style. A decidedly modern Christmas tale told on the streets of L.A., TANGERINE defies expectation at every turn.
I'll go ahead and say it right off the bat. 'Tangerine' is one of the better films of the year that you haven't seen yet. Directed by the guy who created 'Greg the Bunny' (Sean S. Baker) and produced by the Duplass Bros. ('Jeff Who Lives at Home'), this entire film has so much heart, soul, comedy, wit, and Christmas feelings, that you can't help but want to spend more time with the characters and be immersed in their world, if only for another hour or so.
If that wasn't enough, the entire movie was shot with three iPhone 5s with the help of some post production software and a new app to give the picture that widescreen look. This was a decision based on the extremely low budget of the film, and it looks phenomenal. 'Tangerine' is of course a fictional movie, but it plays like a semi-documentary-style movie with two actors who have never acted before, giving stunning performances, award worthy even.
'Tangerine' takes place on Christmas Eve in Hollywood where a transexual sex worker named Sin Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) is released from a month long prison sentence. She immediately heads to the Donut Time Coffee Shop to meet her best friend, also a transexual sex worker named Alexandra (Mya Taylor), who informs Sin Dee that her boyfriend and pimp Chester (James Ransone) has been cheating and seeing another person while she was locked up. To add insult to injury, this new person is named Dinah (Mickey O'Hagan) and is in fact a natural born woman and not trans.
Sin Dee, who always seems to be in the mood for drama, storms out with Alexandra that puts them on a journey to confront both Chester and Dinah. Meanwhile, Alexandra is handing out fliers to people on the street to come to her new show, where she will be singing at a local bar, but in her mind, she feels like she will be performing at Madison Square Garden. Along the way, Sin Dee and Alexandra come across a variety of characters and stereotypes in Hollywood, all of which turn in to more drama and sometimes violent, but in a silly kind of way.
In another storyline, we follow an Armenian immigrant named Rasmik (Karren Karagulian), who drives a taxi and provides for his family. Rasmik is seen throughout the film, although not directly in touch with Sin Dee or Alexandra until a certain point, where a little bit of 'Pulp Fiction' comes into play and all story lines cross paths at once back at the Donut Time Coffee Shop. 'Tangerine' is a fantastic and surreal look at the lives of sex workers in Los Angeles. We see the good, the bad, and the ugly here.
It's also noteworthy on how realistic and simple the film portrays these characters and situations. There are no Vogue models here, but rather real people in real situations, warts and all. It was a breath of fresh air for sure. Rodriguez and Taylor turn in riveting performances throughout and Baker's artistic eye hits all of the right notes, even with an iPhone camera. 'Tangerine' is not to be missed.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Tangerine' is a 25GB Blu-ray Disc housed in a hard plastic blue eco-friendly case with no insert and no digital download code. A few trailers and AXS commercial plays before the menus pop up.
'Tangerine' comes with a 1080p HD transfer presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Again, the movie was filmed with three iPhone 5s models with an adapter to have a widescreen frame. Post production programs added in the exquisite color and contrast and with that being said, this video presentation looks great. The detail is vivid and sharp throughout in this documentary style movie. Closeups reveal all of the makeup and facial blemishes as well as individual hairs on the extravagant wigs.
The wardrobe also looks excellent with fine textures being shown. Wider shots also look sharp and rarely go soft or grainy with the exception of very low lit sequences. Colors are bright, vibrant, and simply pop off screen. Each color is well balanced and saturated. No complaints there. The black levels are deep and inky and the skin tones are natural. There was some ver y minor noise and some minor artifacts, but it's nothing to write home about, leaving this video presentation with top marks.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and sounds excellent for being a realistic "on-the-go" type of production. All of the sounds were recorded live right then and there, meaning everything has a very realistic sound. Nothing is overly exaggerated or overtly loud. Ambient noises come through the surrounds nicely as well. The soundtrack uses a collection of great songs from club to club as well as a Christmas tune over and over. This never really drowns out any of the sounds or dialogue.
Speaking of the dialogue, it sounds great, however, given this type of production and these first time actors, sometimes their lines are slurred and to fast to take in, but that being said, you'll never be lost in the moment, considering there is an excellent subtitle option. There were no cracks, hiss, pops, or high shrills either. The LFE is great and the dynamic range is wide, leaving this audio presentation with solid marks.
Catching Up With Kiki and Mya: Experiences, Characters, and the Big Screen (HD, 11 Mins.) - The two actors in the film discuss working on their first film together and how true to life the story is related to street life in Hollywood.
Walking the Streets: Exploring the Story and Production (HD, 18 Mins.) - This is a good behind the scenes feature that discusses how they shot the movie, the origin of the characters, plot, and its development, and also some interviews with the crew of the film.
Finding the Actors: Completing the Cast of 'Tangerine' (HD, 21 Mins.) - Most of the actors and supporting actors are here with interviews, discussing their characters, themes, and making the film.
'Tangerine' Visual Style Test (HD, 3 Mins.) - This is test footage of the film that was shown to would be backers and producers.
Trailers (HD, 10 Mins.) - A trailer for the film itself and other trailers from Magnolia Entertainment.
'Tangerine' is a fantastic film that almost nobody saw in the theaters. The film won't speak to everyone, but it's sheer originality, wit, brilliance, and characters make this a movie for people who love movies. The video and audio presentations are both unique and well done, and the extras are all worth your time, leaving 'Tangerine' HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!