Jill Soloway appears in just about any feature being published these days about the changing face of television for women behind the camera and trans representation in front of it. Even before “Transparent” landed at Amazon, she was making waves as a writer and producer on shows like “Six Feet Under,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” and “United States of Tara.” And somewhere in her schedule, she found time to make a narrative film.
Had I been paying attention to her feature debut, “Afternoon Delight,” I would surely have run instead of walked to “Transparent.” This character-driven dramedy lives up to the latter word in its title … and would suffice at any time of day, for that matter. Soloway serves as writer as well as director, and her voice shines through in the movie, my pick for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week.”
“Afternoon Delight” might mark the first film to fully realize the wealth of talent possessed by Kathryn Hahn, an actress dangerously close to becoming the next Judy Greer. She’s almost too good at making her presence felt without overpowering the lead, be it dramatically in “Revolutionary Road” or comedically in a movie like “We’re the Millers” or television’s “Parks and Recreation.” But Soloway grants her lead status here, and she runs away with the film.
Hahn’s character Rachel, a stereotypical L.A. Jewish carpool mom, needs something to get her out of a rut. A lethal cocktail of sexual frustration and the white female savior complex leads her to “rescue” a stripper, Juno Temple’s McKenna. If Rachel wanted something to shake up her relationships with her husband and friends, she certainly gets that and more with her new “nanny.” McKenna becomes an object of pity for Rachel, yet her presence also draws out the green monster of jealousy.
The cumulative effect manages to spark some major changes, not all of which are good. But if you need any indication of just how gifted a storyteller Soloway is, watch how much more you feel for Rachel as her behavior goes from erratic to desperate to practically indefensible. Her characters, be they small or silver screen, never lose their solid steeping in humanity. I can only hope “Afternoon Delight” is not the full extent of Soloway’s venture into feature filmmaking. The world of indie cinema needs her gifts too much.