Film review – Tangerine


Tangerine might be the movie with the lowest budget to hit cinemas in the UK this year ($100,000), but what it lacks in production value is certainly supplemented by its rich story line filled with humor, pathos, and what the world loves (and hates) the most about America: good-old-fashioned ratchetness!

At a glance, Tangerine seemed just like any other low-budget, B-list movie that barely scraped its way into the box office instead of heading straight to Netflix and/or IFC (Independent Film Channel). My interest was piqued by the Rotten Tomatoes rating of 96% , yet I was still quite skeptical of this movie’s ability to deliver. But, after the first ten minutes of dialogue in the opening scene, I was thirsting for more hilarious, raunchy interaction between the two lead characters. Sin-Dee, a trans prostitute who is in a frantic search for her pimp boyfriend upon her release from a 28-day stint in the Los Angeles County jail after hearing that he’s cheated (shocker, right?!), and Alexandra, Sin-Dee’s transsexual best friend and track mate (which means they’re like… co-workers) who unintentionally delivered the news of Chester’s (Sin-Dee’s boyfriend and pimp) infidelity while they met for the first time since she had been locked up.

I must commend the director and writer of this film for 1) casting two trans black women as the stars in this NSFW comedy, which is a demographic rarely represented on the silver screen, 2) reportedly shooting the entire movie on an iPhone 5 camera, and 3) bombarding me with punchline after sassy punchline.

This story takes place on Christmas Eve in downtown Los Angeles, and the writer could not have picked a better time to set this story of unbridled passion, unstoppable love and unbreakable friendship.

While the fearless Sin-Dee is on a Lord-of-the-Rings-esque quest for Chester and for the skank with whom he cheated, Alexandra is preparing for a show at a local club, and is inviting all of her loved ones across the Los Angeles metropolitan area. One of her favorite tricks (customer), Razmik is a married Armenian cabby that frequents the trans prostitute scene.

The intertwining of the story lines of each of the dysfunctional character’s lives starts choppy, but all becomes apparent as the story progresses and the flow is seamless. Tangerine does a terrific job of toggling between cheeky dialogue scenes and heart-wrenching emotional revelations, ESPECIALLY at the movies can’t-wait-to-see-what-happens-next/edge-of-your-seat climax that’ll have you thinking “OH NO SHE DIDN’T!”.

By now, I hope I’ve persuaded you to go see (and adequately warned you about) Tangerine. But, before you log off, I have a few terms from the movie that I don’t imagine are decipherable for any and every random movie goer, but is apparently the intrinsic language of Los Angeles’s ethnic transsexual hookers. You’re welcome!

Translations courtesy of and context clues:

ratchet: undesirable, the opposite of classy
fish: the typical heterosexual woman
“You tried it”: a response to someone who has attempted to provoke a negative reaction from you, but you are above such behavior and are too intelligent to respond to such a weak offense
trade: a man who is sexually active with/attracted to other men, but carries on the outward appearance of the typical heterosexual man, even attempting to behave in a more masculine than is usual for them
tea: gossip, news
“What’s tea?”: a greeting for someone identical in meaning to “what’s up?” or simply “hello!”
tina: the narcotic drug also known as meth amphetamines
trippin': acting out of normal, expected, and/or acceptable behavior
coins: money
boots: an adverbial suffix used to indicate a severe amount, i.e. I’m hungry boots! (very hungry)
“hot”: police activity is at a heightened state and risky, illegal activity should be executed extremely cautiously, if executed at all

Now, that you’re armed with the necessary vernacular, I hope you watch Tangerine and enjoy its strong leading ladies *wink*, their witty, catty banter, and this hilarious story of love, friendship, and redemption amongst these lovable LA hookers!

Totally recommend – 4/5 stars.

Marcus Garlington lives at Liberty Court in London, he is from Kansas City in Missouri, and is in his 2nd year studying Journalism at City University London.

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