Movies

Review: 'Afternoon Delight'

(Two-and-a-half stars)

Suburbia got you down? Sex with the hubby just not happening? Therapist no help? Have you considered bringing a stripper home? And there you have "Afternoon Delight," Jill Soloway's new comedy-drama about clambering to stay above the yawning pit of middle-aged ennui.

The unequivocal best thing about "Afternoon Delight" is its star, Kathryn Hahn, a fine actress and fearless funny lady who should be a household name. Hahn plays Los Angeles housewife Rachel, married to one Jeff (Josh Radnor), mother to a kindergartner, surrounded by privilege and no happier for it. Not so hesitantly, Rachel takes the advice of her friend Jennie (Michaela Watkins) and takes Jeff out to a strip club, where dancer McKenna (Juno Temple, who seems stuck in airhead mode) catches Rachel's attention.

Right there, Soloway steps up to her first opportunity for dark subversion, but the film's problem is that it constantly earns two for flinching. Though there's a subtext of sexual frisson, Rachel's invitation to a put-out McKenna to stay a spell in Rachel's home indicates her attraction to the dancer's happily careless spontaneity and freedom from social mores. At Rachel's suggestion, McKenna begins work as a live-in nanny, first at home and soon outside of it as McKenna becomes the pet of the blithely under-informed soccer-mom set.

Clearly, this is a situation hurtling toward disaster, especially when it becomes clear that McKenna more than dabbles in prostitution. The film's first half plays the awkward situation comedy for laughs, setting an expectation of farce to come. But "Afternoon Delight" turns largely serious in its second half, something of a disappointment after the credibility-straining setup. Comedy and drama do, of course, meet in real life, but so distinctly splitting the difference here blows the film's chances of fully succeeding at either.

Ultimately, Soloway seems a bit unsure of what it's all about. The mise en scene of strained school and Jewish Community Center and living-room events to keep the neighborhood women occupied nicely supports the satire of suburban chic, but how Rachel's meant to cope with her feelings of emptiness in the long run never comes into focus, despite an ending that implies she's learned some sort of lesson (be careful what you wish for?).

Climactic catharsis helps somewhat to bring the second act into focus; unfortunately, the blowup feels rather "been there, done that" for a movie that keeps (idly, as it turns out) threatening to turn transgressive.

Still, by putting utility player Hahn front and center, Soloway earns instant good will. The male-dominant cinema needs more stars like Hahn and writer-directors like Soloway to press the boundaries. Next time, though, more pushing and less nudging.

Rated R for strong sometimes graphic sexual content, language and some drug use. One hour, 35 minutes.

Comments

There are no comments yet. Please share yours below.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Choose a category: *

Since this is the first comment on this story a new topic will also be started in Town Square! Please choose a category that best describes this story.

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

I Told My Mom She's Dying
By Chandrama Anderson | 10 comments | 2,350 views

Grab a Bowl of Heaven soon in Mountain View
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 1,569 views

Quick Check List for UC Applications
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 0 comments | 981 views

Fancy Fast and Fun!
By Laura Stec | 3 comments | 864 views

Palo Alto and Bay Area Election Facts and Thoughts on the Implications
By Steve Levy | 2 comments | 472 views