Like "The Goonies" or Claude McKay's "Home To Harlem," Sean Baker's "Tangerine" is pretty much a frenzied remix of "The Odyssey," though here, a journey-back-to-a-partner tale is bent into a picaresque sprint through Los Angeles with fresh-outta-jail trans woman sex worker Sin-Dee (played by Kitana Kiki Rodriguez). Sin-Dee unwisely searches for her pimp Chester (James Ransone), a Jesse Pinkman-esque asshole, so that she can confront him about the fact that he's fucking some white woman named Dinah (Mickey O'Hagan). On the way to find Chester, Sin-Dee locates and literally drags Dinah across town and frequently consults her friend and fellow sex worker Alexandra (Mya Taylor), a voice of reason and the relatively silent conscience amid the movie's moment-to-moment chaos and high-stakes slapstick.
An unflinching comedy about intense female companionship that by way of the comedic abuse white girl Dinah endures refuses to worry about white feelings, "Tangerine" hits the ground running. Don't listen close enough and you'll miss the inciting incident when in the first scene, over one donut, Alexandra accidentally reveals that Chester is cheating on Sin-Dee, which sends Sin-Dee on her odyssey. There is also a subplot, never more than tangentially related to the primary plot, about Razmik (Karren Karagulian), a cab driver in lust with Sin-Dee. Razmik's regular guy-ness is one of the many ways "Tangerine" presents sex work and sexual attraction to whoever as ordinary rather than something to gawk at.
Some of "Tangerine's" discursive energy comes through in the way it was shot—with an iPhone 5S, making it look and feel like some well-shot skate video or a savvy street-rap video—but the rest is up to its veracious cast, especially lead Kitana Kiki Rodriguez. The result is a chatty dark comedy with sloppy, realistic, Elaine May-dramatic-comedy-like beats exploring content that could be bleak without devolving to anything resembling a cautionary tale, all the while somehow finding a way to crack jokes for days and celebrate a couple of flawed women who really fucking love each other.
Directed by Sean Baker, at the Parkway Theatre starting June 17 and running until June 22.