Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Tangerine, or: Donut Underestimate Me

This month’s theme is Blog Free or Die Hard.  Unexpectedly, our secondary theme for this month is the importance of donuts in friendship.  Girl Asleep and Tangerine don’t have a lot in common…but they do share donuts.

The Film:

Tangerine

The Premise:

Remember that movie shot entirely on iPhones?  It’s also one of the first films to gain wide(ish) recognition for its representation of trans women of color.

The Ramble:

After serving a short prison sentence, Sin-Dee is catching up with her bff Alexandra over a donut on Christmas Eve.  Donut singular as Sin-Dee is broke as a joke after being unable to work for the past month.  Both ladies are trans sex workers in LA, which is a niche but pretty in-demand corner of the market.

Alexandra accidentally lets it slip that Sin-Dee’s boyfriend, Chester, couldn’t even go the past month without cheating on her with a cis white girl.  Enraged, Sin-Dee decides to track down the girl, Dinah, and make her regret the day she was born.

Meanwhile, Alexandra is promoting her event tonight, where she’ll sing at a dive bar.  She invites Razmik, a cab driver and regular client.  Razmik is Armenian with about 8 family members to support, including his wife and young child.

a man looks ahead, driving a taxi

Alexandra agrees to help Sin-Dee find Dinah and Chester as long as they don’t stir up too much drama.  Sin-Dee breaks this promise pretty quickly and heads off on her own to the food line, a motel, and a donut shop–pissing off virtually everyone she comes across.

When Sin-Dee does find Dinah, she drags her to the bar where Alexandra is performing in an effort to multi-task.  Though Sin-Dee and Dinah begin understandably at odds, they do bond over make-up and meth.

a woman sits on the bus next to another woman whose mascara is running

Razmik tries to make it to the show but arrives too late.  Hoping to see Alexandra, he tells his family he needs to keep working on Christmas Eve.  Suspicious, his mother-in-law hires a cab driver to track Razmik down and uncover the truth.

In the mean time, Sin-Dee, Alexandra, and Dinah have finally managed to track down Chester.  Razmik has also caught up with our crew, along with his mother-in-law, wife, and child.  It’s all about to go down at Donut Time.

two women stand outside of a shop called Donut Time.
If shit’s going down, it may as well be at a location reliably stocked with donuts.

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I tried really hard to like Sin-Dee, but she annoyed me quite a lot throughout the film.  I liked Alexandra a lot better, and the dynamic between the two women made this worth watching–and Dinah makes a surprisingly fitting addition to the team.  Sin-Dee was a bit of an impulsive drama queen, while Alexandra was off in the corner making snide remarks (which I relate to on a fundamental level).

Chester is a total sleaze, but does add some unexpected humor to the film, delivering lines like “You get my ass thrown out of donut time?!” with conviction.  He’s not a likeable character but, like everyone in the film, feels multi-dimensional and real.  I would’ve liked to see him suffer a bit more, honestly (evidence that I’ve become a full-blown sociopath?).

This is a beautifully shot film, and you forget completely that it’s known primarily as the movie shot entirely with iPhones.  The characters are engaging and lively, and our two leads are absolutely the highlight.

Minor point of contention: I don’t remember the title being explained or anyone ever mentioning tangerines.  I’m sure I’m being too literal here, but it drives me nuts that I don’t understand the title.

Would Christa share a donut or two with this one or drag it around town with only one shoe?  Read her review here to find out!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Girl Asleep, or: Donuts > Growing Up

This week’s film gives our feelings a break for once as we are transported to an oddly surreal dream world that may or may not be real, aka high school in 1970s Australia.

The Film:

Girl Asleep

The Premise:

A girl’s 15th birthday party goes from awkwardly cringey to bizarrely surreal when a magical music box opens to another realm.

The Ramble:

Greta has recently started at a new school and, rather than trying to make friends, seems to be trying her best to keep a low profile.  Her plan fails when she is approached by two separate groups:  first, Elliot (who is adorable and relatably enthusiastic about donuts), and then the stereotypical “cool” girls.  Both groups want to fold her into their embrace, but Greta seems afraid to speak up about who she’d rather be friends with (though I’d usually encourage girls to stick together…always pick the friendship that begins with donuts).

Life at home seems fairly harmonious at first, but almost immediately the cracks begin to show.  Greta’s father is constantly making terrible dad jokes and trying to stop his youngest child from growing up.  Her mother throws her attention on her daughters as she doesn’t seem to like her husband’s sense of humor–or anything about him as a matter of fact.  Greta’s older sister Genevieve throws the delicate balance off completely by coming home late with a really smooth boyfriend who smokes and tries to give off a bit of a James Dean vibe.

a man in a 1970s collared shirt with a moustache and large glasses stands in the doorway of a house
Have I mentioned that I love the ’70s aesthetic in this film?

After school, Greta invites Elliott over and shows him her favorite thing, a music box passed on to her from her mother.  She likes to imagine it’s from a secret realm.  Hmmmmmmm…I wonder if perhaps this plot detail will be important in about 20 minutes.

Greta lives in fear of being the center of attention, so imagine her horror when her mother suggests throwing a big party for her birthday and inviting everyone at school.  The party causes a major fight between her parents, so Greta eventually agrees to have the party to keep the peace.

When the dreaded day of the party arrives, her mother gives her a dress that is very cute but so not her style, and she’s deeply uncomfortable when others tell her she looks so beautiful and grown up.

a teenage girl in a pink dress looks worriedly off camera
I deeply understand this pre-party face.

As the party guests arrive, things begin to get slightly surreal with a pretty nice disco sequence.  The party doesn’t seem to be the nightmare Greta imagined it would be.  However, the cool girls arrive—two of whom are creepy twins who never say anything.  Their gift for Greta is a cassette tape that plays a really mean song about her…which feels like a somewhat sociopathic move, honestly.

Humiliated, Greta retreats to her room.  Her only real friend, Elliott, comforts her and also says he’d like to be more than friends.  This is remarkably bad timing, which causes Greta to freak out and push him away, calling him a homo (not cool, Greta).  Elliot is deeply offended that she considers this an insult in a way that I really appreciate.

To comfort herself, Greta opens up the music box, which seems to gain a life of its own and shocks her.  When she wakes up, there’s a thing from the other realm there that has claimed the music box.  It runs away into the woods (of course), and Greta gives chase.

creatures peer out from behind trees in a dark forest
Come play with us…

Possibly not shockingly, things get really surreal from here on out.  A woman who lives in the forest helps Greta navigate the woods and steer clear of the scary dog thing that’s pursuing her.  It gets suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuper Freudian when she encounters alternate versions of her mother and father, who are an ice queen and a sort of swamp guy, respectively.  There’s also a really unsettling bit with Genevieve’s boyfriend, who has some sort of French alter-ego and comes on strong to Greta.

What does this all mean, and will Greta ever make it back to the party? Does she even want to make it back?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

This is a very gentle coming of age story.  Though it does tackle some heavier themes surrounding Greta’s home life and fear of attention, these receive only brief attention.  I might complain about this if I were in a different mood, but avoiding anything too deep was a breath of fresh air with some very sweet moments and surreal scenes (admittedly with somewhat mixed results).

Elliott is one of my favorite teen characters ever now, though he is perhaps way too nice to be believed.  I don’t care—I want to believe.  I want Elliott to be my best friend.

behind a parked car, a boy models a party dress for a girl in a gray suit
Case in point.

The lack of depth is a bit frustrating at times—Greta quickly changes the subject when anyone tries to talk too much about the past, and the surreal scenes don’t really give us any insight into her psyche.  At a certain point they do cross over into artsy film school BS.

It doesn’t help that the real and dream worlds are kept separate—it would have been nice to see them woven together better.  Genevieve briefly alludes to what happened on her own 15th birthday, and as the music box is a gift from her mother, the whole experience could have been a shared experience.  I would’ve LOVED it if there were more time for female relationships in this movie.

However, I enjoyed the aesthetic and this was just whimsical and sweet enough for me to enjoy.

Would Christa share a donut with this one or leave it to get lost in the woods?  Find out by reading her review here!