Pop culture’s transgenderism breakthrough continues with this film, a breakthrough hit at Sundance in January. Rather than having a trans protagonist played by a cisgender actor (like Transparent) or including one trans character as part of a larger ensemble (like Orange is the New Black), Tangerine actually features trans characters played by trans actresses, in starring roles.
But this film is much more than an identity politics milestone. It’s actually hugely entertaining- if nothing else, it contributes ”time to make the donuts bitch” to the lexicon.
Directed by Sean S. Baker, “Tangerine” is the day-in-the-life story of a pair of trans prostitutes, played by first-time actors Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor. One was recently released from jail in order to discover her boyfriend has cheated on her with a non-trans woman, and the bulk of the movie is the search for the boyfriend and his paramour. Playing the boyfriend is “The Wire”‘s Ziggy Sobotka himself, James Ransone.
But the film is also a slice-of-life comedy/drama, featuring a variety of neighborhood characters.
There’s also a great scene, in which a john is outraged to discover that the female prostitute he’s picked up actually has a vagina, that’s the inverse of something that’s happened in dozens of films, and usually been played for mean-spirited laughs.
No, “Tangerine” won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I found it hugely entertaining, as well as groundbreaking.