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Tangerine: Girls gone wild

by Mark Burger

**’½ Tangerine certainly qualifies as a “gender bender” in that its two principal characters, Sin-Dee Rella and Alexandra, are transgender streetwalkers and played, respectively, by transgender actresses Kitana “Kiki” Rodriguez and Mya Taylor in truly show-stopping screen debuts.Colorfully filmed on the streets of Los Angeles on Christmas Eve, the film follows these boulevard divas as they go about their daily lives in a “slice-of-life” presentation that includes moments of exultant joy and equally exultant pain.Although the award-winning comedy/drama is bursting with attitude and sass, what’s lacking in director/producer Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch’s screenplay is a sense of where these characters came from. We know that Sin-Dee has just been sprung from jail and that, of the pair, she’s easily the more volatile than Alexandra. The gals are tough yet tender, and both have clearly been through the mill, but a few hints might have lent the proceedings more resonant.Nevertheless, Baker and Bergoch have populated this landscape with memorable characters and talented actors, including Karren Karagulian as an Armenian cabbie drawn to Alexandra – his being the one character that rates a backstory; Mickey O’Hagan as an addled blonde prostitute Sin-Dee drags along to confront their mutual pimp, Chester (James Ransome); the very funny Ian Edwards, who shares some hilarious exchanges with Sin-Dee; and Hollywood veteran Clu Gulager, as a talky tourist from Oklahoma called “the Cherokee.” − Tangerine opens Friday at a/perture cinema, Winston-Salem and is scheduled to open Aug. 7 at Geeksboro Coffeehouse Cinema, Greensboro

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