Director/co-writer/co-cinematographer Sean Baker’s wildly funny, gorgeously shot (yes, with an iPhone 5s) and ultimately deeply moving fifth feature, “Tangerine,” like his previous films, is populated with people on the margins of the culture, and shows their lives as full of value.
Christmas Eve in West Hollywood shares none of the clichés of the holiday as celebrated back east. And while the place is called Tinseltown there are no evergreens to put the silver stuff on, no snowfall. But blonde, coiffed trans prostitute Sin-Dee (spectacular newcomer Kitana Kiki Rodriguez), newly released from a short stint in jail, is creating her own storm. Having heard a rumor that her pimp/boyfriend Chester (James Ransone, also amazing) cheated on her with a “fish” (a cisgender woman), she’s on a rampage (in shortest shorts and ripped patterned tights) to locate both transgressors.
Sin-Dee is initially accompanied as she tears up the streets and alleys by her best friend, also a trans working girl, dark-haired Alexandra (newcomer May Taylor, perfect), who splits off to promote and get ready for her gig that evening, singing in a local bar.
Hearing Sin-Dee is back in the neighborhood, Armenian-immigrant taxi driver Razmik (Karren Karagulian), married with a child, and a suspicious mother-in-law, spends the day trying to find her for a date in his cab.
Sin-Dee finds skinny Dinah (Mickey O’Hagan) and literally drags her to hear Alexandra perform and then to Chester’s place of business, Donut Time. Razmik leaves his family’s holiday dinner to continue his hunt, also arriving at there.
As all hell breaks uproariously loose in the fast-food joint, Sin-Dee gets devastating news about Alexandra, and returning to the streets is drenched with pee thrown by jerks from a moving car. But what then happens between her and Alexandra in a laundromat is a moment full of beauty and grace. While romantic love propels us, often makes us crazy, it’s true friendship, between women, that sustains us.