2013, R, 98 min. Directed by Jill Soloway. Starring Kathryn Hahn, Juno Temple, Josh Radnor, Jane Lynch, Jessica St. Clair, Michaela Watkins, Annie Mumolo.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Sept. 13, 2013
Given her own starring role in a movie, comic actress Kathryn Hahn – best known from her supporting roles on TV’s Crossing Jordan, Girls, and Parks and Recreation – is a lot of fun to watch. Her naturalistic body language coupled with her unfettered mouth make her a good screen proxy for the modern gal. “How can I complain,” says Rachel, the character Hahn plays, to her self-absorbed therapist (Lynch) at the start of Afternoon Delight, noting that women in Darfur are raped while fetching water – and again on their way back. Rachel knows the problems of affluent, white women in the first world amount to a hill of beans in the general hierarchy of desperate situations. Rachel can’t even name her problem, but it probably has something to do with her lack of enthusiasm for the whirlwind of activities drummed up by her circle of other stay-at-home JCC Moms and, yes, probably it’s also connected to the unexplained six-month absence of sex with her husband Jeff (Radnor).
To light a fire in her marital sex life, Rachel and Jeff visit a strip club, where Jeff buys Rachel a lap dance from a young, blonde tease named McKenna (Temple). Later, Rachel arranges to run into McKenna accidentally on purpose, and soon installs McKenna in the former nanny’s room in her Silver Lake, Calif., home. The liberal do-gooder in Rachel wants to help transform McKenna’s life, especially when the young woman reveals that she’s a “full service sex worker,” who basically uses the pole as an advertisement for her wares. Besides, what could possibly go wrong when inviting a hooker into your home to mingle with your husband, child, and JCC friends? If truth be told, it’s Rachel whose life is enriched by the experience and McKenna who essentially gets the wet towel.
This observational film, for which Jill Soloway received the Dramatic Directing Award at this year’s Sundance, takes a sharp turn from comedy to drama before it concludes. It’s an awkward shift and makes this slight film that often strains believability seem even more unfocused. Soloway’s background as a writer and producer of shows such as Six Feet Under and United States of Tara – programs that are also known for their tonal mixtures and raw material – seems evident. Afternoon Delight has many small pleasures but falls far short of reaching the G spot.