Tangerine ★★★★½

Tangerine joins a rather exclusive list of movies in which the ending made me feel for some reason compelled to sit, motionless, for the entirety of the credits. So, that's pretty good.

I'm unsure why Tangerine seems to be such a polarizing movie. Maybe it's the subject matter which, in combination with the filming style, creates a film that, at times, feels very aggressive. Or the whole "shot on iPhones" gimmick, which may make some see it as unimportant and trying too hard to be modern, even though I forgot that this was filmed with an iPhone roughly 30 seconds into the movie. I think it probably comes down to, if one thing only, whether or not you sympathize with Sin Dee, Alexandria, and even Dinah. (And maaaaybe the taxi dude?) While I liked them from the beginning, I grew to love these wonderfully flawed people (selfish, vicious, loving, kind) throughout the run-time, all the way up to that amazing conclusion (which the film would feel woefully underwhelming without). I was worried that a movie with protagonists that are transgender sex workers, that the treatment would be exploitative. And while it may or may not get into that territory (I'm not sure, and I don't think I have much authority to say even if I had much of an opinion), at the end of the day, it still treats its characters with the utmost respect, and, just as importantly, treats them as human beings.

Okay, I guess it's time to talk about the iPhone filming thing. Besides being an obviously low-budget thing, filming with an iPhone helped Tangerine feel so "of-its-time" in a way very few films are (I don't know if this could have been made as it exists even five years ago). But it's not just a gimmick that ties the film down: Tangerine looks awesome. Ugly at times, but always on purpose, the camera cuts around, taking countless angles for any one scene, feeling disorienting and confusing before breaking into fantastic clarity. Good example of aforementioned clarity: that final shot, which (while looking digital) does not look like something a telephone could shoot.

Tangerine is also benefited by the world it creates, which feels so supremely lived-in that I felt like I was walking right besides these characters. The people, though dramatic, feel so real, and the setting seems to live and breathe with them. This film would fail without the emotional weight that is at the core: even though it is very often hard to see, there is a beating heart in the center of this film, and when it finally fully unveils itself, the rest of the movie comes shifting into focus.

This is far, far from perfect, but I found it an absolutely invigorating viewing experience. Even if all the pieces didn't fit quite so perfectly, and after a solid opening it drags for a little bit, this movie was so delightfully original: it is so completely itself that you can almost feel it, no other way to put it. I'm still digesting this film, but I know for sure that movies like Tangerine make me very excited about the future of independent cinema in this country. (Though I'll probably take that back once we get countless shitty-looking iPhone movies.)

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