Sean Baker


Best films:
7.0 Prince of Broadway (2008)
6.5 Starlet (2012)
7.1 Tangerine (2015)
7.0 The Florida Project (2017)
6.8 Red Rocket (2021)
Links:

Sean Baker Sean Baker (USA, 1971) debuted with Four Letter Words (2000) and Take Out (2004).

Baker rose to prominence with Prince of Broadway (2008), a virtuoso piece of alternative cinema based on improvised dialogue and shot through a handheld camera.

Starlet (2012), starring former fashion model Dree Hemingway in a memorable performance, is a character study that also refines Baker's comic skills through some hilarious scenes.

Tangerine (2015), shot with three smartphones, is the cinematic equivalent of a hip-hop jam: the rhythm is spastic, the characters speak fast and almost sing. The film is a tragedy of loneliness and alienation, where the victims range from transgender prostitutes to an immigrant housewife. Not a single person has a happy life. And, still, there's a point when the film plunges into screwball comedy, as if to imply that even the most sordid of unhappiness is kind of comic. It all happens on Christmas night, the night when people are supposed to be nice to each other.

It's Christmas Eve. Two black "drag queens" meet in a cafe and chat casually. Accidentally, one of them, Alexandra, reveals to the other one, Sin-Dee, that her boyfriend has been cheating on her with a woman while she (Sin-Dee) was in jail. Sin-Dee starts walking around the city trying to find out who the woman is, while Alexandra follows her, warning her against making a scene, and handing out flyers about her evening musical performance. Every now and then the film turns to an Armenian cab driver, Razmik, and his various passengers. Sin-Dee finally learns the name of the woman, Dinah, but then decides to confront not the woman but her boyfriend Chester. Sin-Dee gets aggressive with a friend of Chester's and Alexandra, who wants no drama, parts ways. We learn that Chester is also Sin-Dee's pimp. Sin-Dee takes the subway, Alexandra is still walking in the street. Meanwhile, the taxi driver picks up two drunk and drugged kids who throw up in his cab. Alexandra is picked up by a man who wants oral sex but doesn't have enough money to pay for it, so they settle for something less, but then he can't get satisfied so they get into a violent argument. Luckily, two cops are posted nearby and one of the is a woman who, given that it's Christmas time, stops them from hurting each other. Razmik the cab driver now drives around looking for prostitutes. He picks up a black one and pays, but then he's disappointed to find out she really is a woman: he complains that she was standing in a spot for drag queens and kicks her out of the car. Sin-Dee breaks into a motel full of prostitutes busy with their customers and finally finds Dinah. Sin-Dee pulls her by the hair out of the motel and drags her to the street. Razmik sees Alexandra. They know each other. She gets into his car. They drive to a car wash and Razmik performs fellatio on Alexandra while the car is going through it. He pays for the service that he performs. Alexandra hands him a flyer of her evening performance and mentions that Sin-Dee is out of jail and will be there. Alexandra walks away and Razmik drives home where he has dinner with his Armenian family. Sin-Dee drags Dinah around, and Dinah pities the transgender Sin-Dee for thinking that she (Sin-Dee) is Chester's girlfriend: Chester has no fixed girlfriend. Alexandra walks to the night-club where she's supposed to perform but nobody has showed up so the show is about to be cancelled. But finally Sin-Dee shows up, still dragging Dinah, and the show can go on. Before the show begins, Sin-Dee and Dinah bond over doing drugs. Alexandra sings in front of just the two of them. We see that she pays the club to let her perform. Razmik leaves his family's Christmas dinner with the excuse of night work, and heads to the night-club. He arrives after the girls have already left. Razmik drives around in the middle of the night looking for them. Sin-Dee finally finds Chester, her white pimp, at a late-night food joint. Sin-Dee is furious but Chester calms her down and we learn that he even proposed to Sin-Dee before she got arrested. Alexandra and Dinah roll their eyes because Chester sounds so fake. Dinah candidly confesses that she slept with Chester more than ten times. Meanwhile, Razmik's mother-in-law got suspicious. She gets into the cab of another Armenian driver and learns that Razmik is not working that night. She pays the cab driver to drive around until they find Razmik. Eventually the cab driver, who thinks that Razmik should respect his family, admits that he knows where Razmik hangs out and drives her there. Razmik is driving around looking for Sin-Dee and pays a prostitute to find out where she is. Razmik interrupts the meeting between Chester and Sin-Dee (and Dinah and Alexandra), and gets into an argument with Chester who doesn't want Sin-Dee to leave. Just as Chester is explaining who he is, Razmik's mother-in-law walks in. She doesn't speak English and it takes her a while to understand that those three girls are prostitutes, and two of them are actually men dressed like women. Chaos erupts. Razmik tries to stop his mother-in-law who calls his wife and tells her what's happening. Chester and the girls shout at each other. The owner of the place wants everybody out. Razmik's wife arrives with their crying baby. His wife and her mother get into an argument of their own. Razmik's wife implies that she knows that Razmik goes to prostitutes and she tolerates it to save her family. Razmik is yelled at by both mother and daughter. Chester and the girls are amused. While Razmik, his wife and his mother-in-law yell at each other, the prostitutes contribute their remarks. The owner of the place kicks everybody out. Outside Chester gets angry when he learns that all the commotion started when Alexandra told Sin-Dee about Dinah. Now Chester reveals that he also slept with Alexandra herself, Sin-Dee's best friend. This hurts Sin-Dee who leaves. Alexandra follows her but Sin-Dee doesn't want to talk to her. Dinah walks alone to the motel which is her home, but the madame who runs the brothel doesn't let her in. Sin-Dee stops at a corner looking for customers. A car stops and they throw urine to her. Alexandra is still with her and drags her into a laundromat to get cleaned. Sin-Dee has to take off her clothes and her wig to wash them. Sin-Dee grabs Alexandra's hand and forgives her: it's her only friend.

The Florida Project (2017)

Red Rocket (2021)

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