Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of interviewing writer/director Jill Soloway, whose first feature film, Afternoon Delight, is set for release today (A.K.A. we just made your weekend plans for you). The 47- year-old writer, former showrunner, and BUST contributor is a serious feminist inspiration.
Afternoon Delight showcases the life and self-realization of a Los Angeles mother named Rachel (Kathryn Hahn). In the film, the thirty-something mom finds herself trapped in a suffocating life; her husband constantly works (and their sex life is nonexistent), she feels detached from her son, and her once promising journalistic career over. In light of all this, Rachel brings her husband to a strip club, where she unexpectedly forms a connection with a stripper named McKenna (Juno Temple). Rachel feels a need to save McKenna, who she soon hires to be her live-in nanny. Suddenly, their lives become intertwined and their friendship deepens. As they emotionally grow together, Rachel is finally able to see her life from a new perspective.
Aside from Jill’s new film, we also had the chance to chat about female writers/directors, women's sexuality, female friendships, and what it means to be a feminist. Basically, Jill is the awesome-est. Here's how it all went down:
BUST: Hi Jill, how are you? How was filming today?
JS: I was actually doing a table read for production on my new pilot.
BUST: Wow, that’s awesome! Well to start off, I know you previously were a show-runner for TV shows like Six Feet Under and United States of Tara. How did you make the leap to writing and directing your own movie
JS: I was just sort of like pushing myself to what I considered my most. I felt like I wasn’t punching above my weight creatively, and I didn’t feel like I was working in my risk space in television. I also was never the creator of a show, I was always sort of helping another creator with their show. I just felt like it was really time for me to take responsibility for the whole product, and be able to quality-control stamp every aspect. I had to sort of step up and to be able to face myself, and not really blame anybody if things weren’t perfect. I wanted to be able to look to myself, to get things right, and that’s what directing meant.
BUST: Were you inspired by any female writers and directors when you were embarking on Afternoon Delight?
JS: Yeah! 100% Andrea Arnold is my heroine. I love her. The movie Fish Tank pushed me over the edge into wanting to direct something, and had me think, “I can do this, I know how to do this now.” Something about the way that she directed that movie, just got me. She just directed from this place where I felt like the camera was inside the protagonist, instead of looking at the protagonist. I just felt like she was embodying the “female gaze,” or even something I like to call, the “female gazed.” You could just feel Andrea inside of the camera/character, and I wanted to emulate that.
BUST: Since Afternoon Delight deals with many themes that I would consider feminist, especially sexual agency, abortion, and redefining motherhood, would you consider it a feminist film?
JS: Absolutely. I mean, I can’t help but make a feminist film, because I’m a feminist, and I’m always thinking about feminism. But I think it’s a feminist film, and a feminine film.
BUST: You focused on the sexual lives of the women in the film, especially Rachel’s and McKenna’s. There’s this new trend in films/TV shows about women and their sexual agency, like Girls. Do you think these narratives are a passing trend, or are they here to stay?
JS: I think they’re totally here to stay. I felt like Girls kind of raised the bar for women. I think a lot of people were trying to articulate what Lena [Dunham] was trying to do just by making Tiny Furniture and by making Girls, by saying, “Ok a protagonist who doesn’t look perfect, and hasn’t been approved and vetted by multiple boards of men.” That’s something I feel so many woman writers and directors were trying to explain in meetings. By creating Tiny Furniture, Lena claimed it, and by creating Girls, she was able to illuminate the notion that America gave a shit. And then the rest of us could just go, “Ok Girls, but moms.” Girls became this shorthand for something I think had previously been an incredibly sweaty, teary, monologue that had to be said before you could pitch your show. And we didn’t have to do that anymore. We could just say, “Girls, but…”
BUST: Both Girls and Afternoon Delight show real sexual relationships. In the movie, you deal with long-term relationships that try to spice up their sex lives in a non-Cosmo Magazine way. What were the resources that you drew upon to form this theme?
JS: I used every conversation I’ve ever had with every woman I’ve ever known. I’ve just been thinking about all this stuff for so long. I had the question of, “What do the women I know think about when they’re about to come?” Is it their husband? Is it love? Is it a few people? Where do we go in our minds to come! And for some reason when I started asking women that question, they started telling me, you know, the truth. I had a friend of mine who’s just like, “Oh my god, that fucking Adam on Girls. Why did he pop into my mind when I came?!” For some reason now, people still tell me, I don’t know why. But gosh, I would say, 95% of the women all reported something other than “loving my partner” –laughs-
BUST: I noticed that female friendships were a huge part in the movie. Seeing the female characters interact with each other emotionally gets really intense. Did you ever personally find yourself relating to these no-holds-barred friendships?
JS: Oh, yeah! I think the original one that I have is with my sister. The two of us are just kind-of one person. We grew up being each other’s halves in some ways. I’m always trying to re-create that out in the world. What it means to have a sister, or to have a sisterly best friend, where not only can you say everything, you have to say everything. So I think when you’re younger, and you’re making out with some guy, you’re just thinking like, “This will only exist when I tell my friend about this.” It doesn’t exist until you share it with your friend.
Afternoon Delight still: Rachel (Hahn) and McKenna (Temple)
BUST: What do you hope viewers will take away from the film?
JS: I just want people to go to the movie, especially women, and be like, “Oh My God, that was my movie.” I feel like there’s a thing that women experience when they go to movies. You know, the ways in which so many movies are written, and created by men, that ask women to split, so that you can participate in the protagonism, is so fucking annoying. And I would just like for women, feminists, sex workers, and moms alike, to be able to sit in the audience and say, “This is my movie.”
BUST: Finally, I have to ask you, what does feminism mean to you?
JS: I think it’s not just equality, and not just that women should be able to have everything that men have, but that women should be demanding, and expect much more than what men have. Women should be asking to be seen and recognized. I’m sort-of not just a feminist, but also a feminine-ist. I believe that there are a lot of things that are inherent in female-ness, and our femininity. I always say that our world is suffering from a divided feminine power. We are broken in half by the ways in which the patriarchy needs us to be broken, [in order] to stay in power. And when we’ve internally become whole, we can be whole with other women, in our communities, and with other women in the world. I know this is going to seem so cheesy, but I think that we can begin to bring the world back into balance.
BUST: That doesn’t sound cheesy at all!
JS: It works for BUST.
Thank you so much for Jill Soloway for taking the time to chat with me! This film (and this woman!) is amazing! Watch the trailer below and get even more excited to see this movie, which comes out today!