Thursday, March 24, 2016
Directed & Edited By: Sean Baker
Written By: Sean Baker & Chris Bergoch
Cinematography By: Sean Baker & Radium Cheung
Cast: Mya Taylor, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Karenn Karagulian, Mickey O’Hagan, James Ransone, Ian Edwards, Clu Gulager, Katka Kassin, Ana Foxx, Josh Sussman, John Culager, Jason Stuart, Angelique Banks
A working girl tears through Tinseltown on Christmas Eve searching for the pimp who broke her heart.
This film takes you by surprise as you would think the film would go in a more sensitive direction as in the past when it comes to more people who the world see's as different or controversial. Films have tended to treat them as saints. Here the film shows them as real and flawed characters but not the whole community just these particular characters. Who put a name and face on the hardships some trans people have in the world and what some are forced to do to make it out there.
The film starts out of the gate with a constant state of energy immediately. Catching the street flavor of downtown Los Angeles. Showing you the city you don't really see too much represented in films.
This film is more of a dark yet wacky comedy he. Anything else. Dealing with human characters in raw and absurd situations. Though it stays moving and entertaining. Not only because of the filmmaking but also the two actresses played by. Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez who have natural chemistry as best friends. But also their believability in their performances. They work together on screen as a perfect comedic duo. It really ends up becoming more like screwball comedy at times with all the mishaps, missteps and misunderstandings. Especially the confrontation scene at donut time that almost feels like a Jerry Springer episode for it's sensationalism.
Mya Taylor, revealed that, much like her character Alexandra, she had worked as a prostitute in Hollywood. The film was shot while she was first starting to take female hormones. Praise should also be given to director Sean Baker whose career I have followed and he has always impressed me. Not only for his low budget filmmaking skills, but also the stories he chooses to tell in his films. That are usually from an outsiders point of view. Members of society who are often recognized but overlooked. Not necessarily part of a known society. He always is willing to explore cultures and characters who are not exactly in the mainstream, usually immigrants and he doesn't make them saints but exposes us to their worlds allowing us to see the world from their eyes and truly shining a spotlight more on characters. That gives his films a bravery to show the truth whether it be good or bad. He merely shows us what is there at the heart of the story.
The fuel of the story is love of perceived love as Sin-Dee is seeking revenge as she finds out the love of her life her pimp Chester cheated on her and she is seeking revenge on the girl. Who is a fish (natural born woman)
Though unbeknownst to her one of her johns Razmik is looking for her and in love with her. Even thou he goes to Alexandra for sex and she believes he is such a good guy. He might be able to notice that she has a crush on him. Even though in his normal life he is straight, is married and has kids. Sean Baker, credited Kitana Kiki Rodriguez with coming up with the revenge part of the plot (that of her character, Sin-Dee, hunting down the woman who slept with Chester).
At first the two characters friendship seems empty as one is more selfish than the other, but as the story goes on they show truly that they are the only ones each other has. Which is really the films sweet spot and embraces the sweetness hidden beneath the surface.
Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez were already friends in real life before the production started.
The films first half is more the outrageous comedic. That is where it feels non-stop as the pace and camerawork feels erratic and as Sin-Dee stomps through to seek her revenge. She is like Godzilla scary and destroying anyone and anything that gets in her path. The second half slowly gets more serious and a bit emotional. As the film ultimately is a dark cornet that slowly exposes the reality of the characters lives. In particular around Christmas.
The cab driver who has an attraction to trans women is a sweet character even though he is basically living a lie. He has a love that is prohibited and for him a weakness as well as an obsession that can easily be labeled a fetish. As he seems more to have a crush on one character in particular and using the friend to get closer to her.
The film was made using iPhone camera to film all of the scenes. With modified lenses and apps to help. It presents a normal Los Angeles that is gritty but also shows it's beauty in a bunch of wide shots throughout.
This film was shot exclusively on iPhone 5s smartphones, along with the Moondog Labs' anamorphic clip on lens and a $8 app, FiLMiC Pro in addition to Steadicam Smoothee Mounts.
The film also allows for a little slice of life of Los Angeles as we see and learn about the fares Razmik picks up but also the characters who revolve around the main characters be they johns, Potential johns, cops, business owners
This film is inspirational in that way showing you can make a film and tell a story. Even able to put it on the big screen using the basic necessities and if you learn how to use it correctly nothing can stop you.
Now I can say this is a film that isn't for everybody and can be controversial, but it is worth seeing. As it does involve trans characters, but the film isn't entirely about that. Nor does it treat them as sacred. If anything it tries to humanize them more then most films do. His film actually includes them as it's main stars.
It is also the closet Sean baker has come to an out and out comedy. Though what I like about the film is that the film shows a humanity. The highs and lows of life and the power of friendship that is like family. Even though at times they seem more like your enemy.