In "Sweet Talk," Delilah (Natalie Zea) is an erudite phone-sex worker who besides naming herself after the Biblical escort reads "Anna Karenina" and plays chess during routine calls. One "John" (for they're all named John) gets her attention, though, when he proposes that in lieu of the usual dirty talk, they tell each other tales — seduction by storytelling, a la Scheherazade. And get this: His real name is Samson (Jeffrey Vincent Parise).
Scripted by Peter Lefcourt based on his stage play and directed by his wife, Terri Hanauer, the film gradually slips into the sweeping romances they spin for each other by depositing Samson and Delilah in her overalls and oversized sweat shirt in the settings they invent and eventually transporting the couple in full period costume to 1914 Budapest and 1939 Vienna.
A prolific television actress with current roles on "Justified," "The Following" and "Under the Dome," Zea gives a natural performance amid a neighborhood of painful stereotypes (including a nosy Asian shopkeeper), but she doesn't adjust her cadence, let alone accent, for the historical flashbacks, bringing a modern sensibility that limits the effectiveness of these scenes. Meanwhile, Parise is reduced to talking to a pet bird to explain his emotions.
Distracting too are the simple logistics of a phone-sex operation in which Delilah can spend a 12-hour shift fantasizing with Samson despite being the only one on duty.
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes
Playing at: Downtown Independent, Los Angeles. Also on VOD on Dec. 15