Spared or Spoiled Reviews: Tangerine

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Tangerine (Magnolia Pictures)


Directed by Sean S. Baker

Written by Sean S. Baker & Chris Bergoch

Starring Kitana Kiki RodriguezMya Taylor, Karren Karagulian, Mickey O’Hagan & James Ransone

Tangerine is an ultra low-budget street-level dark comedy about two transgender sex workers, hookers, best friends, and their adventures in one epic day; a day when one is released from a short stay in prison and the other mistakenly tells her that her boyfriend (and pimp) was cheating while she was away, cheating with a real girl.

Tangerine No

Tangerine is very funny but also a bit disturbing for its drug use and its violence and its lifestyle. And by lifestyle I mean the prostitution. The transgender theme is handled brilliantly. And the two leads are funny and at the same time tragic. It’s a very good movie if you make it to the payoff. You just have to make it through a lot of street-level craziness. With hookers and drug addicts. But it’s funny. Tangerine is funny as fuck but it’s not really for the faint of heart.

Verdict: SPARED

Tangerine FishTangerine is a movie with one hell of a payoff. A collision of sorts. Sin-Dee, a transgender hooker, has just been released from prison and her best friend and confidant tells her that her boyfriend and pimp is sleeping with a cis female (born as, biological, if I get the terms wrong I apologize). She searches first for “the fish” (what they call a girl) that’s been sleeping with her man and then for him. It’s quite a journey through the neighborhood. This is a road movie even though they stay primarily in the same neighborhood.

Tangerine cast

The other story involves a cab driver who has a sexual appetite for trans hookers. Well for one in particular, Sin-Dee, who has been away. The Cab Driver is married with a child and an extended Armenian immigrant family, and of course his family has no idea that he frequents hookers let alone transgender hookers.

Tangerine ViolenceThese two and all the other shady characters come together in a beautiful payoff that turns a dark and disturbing, but very funny, movie into an enjoyable ride with an amazing climax. My only complaint with the film is the theme. These people are lost in drug use and prostitution and violence. I spent a few years on the street and the film feels very authentic and hard to watch at times. Even though it’s very funny.

Donut Time Tangerine

But at the heart of the film are the two friends and it’s their relationship and these two personalities that make the journey worthwhile. And I started off being annoyed with both but they grew on me after a while and by the end I was rooting for them.


Tangerine is an original and surprisingly sweet film about an ex-con trans hooker who is hunting down the drug addicted whore who was screwing her pimp boyfriend while she was in prison. It’s gritty and it’s real and it’s honest and it’s hard to look at, but believe it or not, it’s a lighthearted comedy. And it’s pretty damn funny.

Tangerine is a great movie.

– Mel


3 thoughts on “Spared or Spoiled Reviews: Tangerine

  1. Great write-up, Mel! This really is a great movie, I loved it. It’s such a simple story about friendship, and yet so powerful – the closing scene almost made me cry. And the two leads were brilliant. I’m really glad to see you liked it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes. The ending was amazing. I remember thinking how cool a throwaway line it was when she tells Sin-Dee in the beginning about why she’s broke because she’s been paying her rent as well as her own. I remember thinking how beautiful that was and they just gloss over it. And then Sin-dee goes off on this excursion. And then the reveal at the end and the reconciliation. And it turns out to be this beautiful story about friendship. I watched it after seeing it on your “best of” list. So thank you for that. And thank you for the comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, I’m so happy to hear that! Hearing that someone discovered a new film because of my blog is truly one of the most rewarding things.
        I hope your review does the same thing for someone else, because this film really deserves more recognition. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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