Transparent, Jill Soloway and “Somebody That I Used To Know”

Jill Soloway may seem to be a fresh voice in a sea of shows about convention (e.g. A to Z, Manhattan Love Story), but the truth is, she’s been with us all along, writing episodes for shows like (the short-lived) Nikki, Six Feet Under and Dirty Sexy Money. And then there was her debut feature film, Afternoon Delight, starring Kathryn Hahn (who also has a role in Transparent). All of this, it would seem, has led her to create her true masterpiece starring Jeffrey Tambor as a 68-year-old man finally ready to come out as a trans woman.

Tambor as Mort/Maura, the role of his lifetime
Tambor as Mort/Maura, the role of his lifetime
The nuances of the show are equal parts Soloway and the meticulousness with which the actors deliver their performances. Apart from just Tambor, there is also Gaby Hoffmann as his youngest daughter, Ali, a wandering spirit with an air of sexual ambiguity who doesn’t really seem to know what she wants out of life. His other children, played by Jay Duplass and Amy Landecker, render their roles as Josh and Sarah (rounding out a trio of the most Jewish first names ever) with the sort of subtle amazingness deserving of an Emmy Award, at the very least. And let’s not forget about Judith Light as Mort’s ex-wife, Shelly, delivering all of her memorable moments in typically brief scenes.
With his progeny
With his progeny
Jill Soloway’s confidence in her subject matter, which goes far beyond merely trans life, is evident in every frame, every piece of dialogue and every music choice. Most notably, Maura’s somewhat macabre performance of Gotye and Kimbra’s “Somebody That I Used To Know” showcases a level of beautifully combined emotion and kitsch that could perhaps only be conveyed by an outfit called Trans Got Talent. With his children in the audience watching his duet with his trans mentor, Davina (Alexandra Billings), in overt horror, we are given a clear-cut empathy for Maura’s utter aloneness.
Performing "Somebody That I Used To Know" with Davina
Performing “Somebody That I Used To Know” with Davina
As the tone of lament in the lyrics gets progressively more morose, so too, does Maura as she notices all of her children have fled from the premises. Easily one of the best, most visually affecting scenes in the annals of twenty-first century television, Soloway proves that she’s got so much to teach us about family, relationships and life itself.

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