It’s hard not to look at Jill Soloway’s Afternoon Delight (2013) as a warmup for her series Transparent. Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) is a profoundly bored mother in Los Angeles whose marriage to breadwinner husband Jeff (Josh Radnor) has lost its spark. Rachel’s search for meaning leads her to a strip club, where Jeff buys her a lapdance from a young stripper named McKenna (Juno Temple). Fascinated by McKenna’s life, Rachel befriends her outside of work, and eventually invites her to live in her spare room, a move calculated to shake up, or perhaps blow up, her life.
Afternoon Delight is stylistically similar to Transparent in its frankness, its mix of comedic talent with dark subject matter, and its semi-improvisational scene-building. It’s also focused on characters ensconced in comfortable, expected, wealthy lives who are searching for meaning. Its story, alas, isn’t nearly as compelling as Transparent’s; Rachel’s journey feels more predictable than that of the Pfeffermans. I found my attention drifting occasionally. But Hahn is terrific in a rare starring turn, and she’s surrounded with convincing support from Radnor, Michaela Watkins, Jane Lynch, and others. Certainly not a must-watch, for me, but not without its strengths.