Brace yourselves for some Afternoon Delight. The title of the newest indie film might make you believe that you are stepping into a fun, light-hearted look at a midday romp, while in reality it is anything but that. In fact, the film focuses on a couple who are having so many problems in the bedroom that the wife hires a stripper she meets at a club to be their live-in nanny. While the acting and direction are absolutely outstanding, Afternoon Delight will punch you in the gut and make you ache in all the right places.
Director/Writer Jill Soloway is known for other heartwrenching story lines. After all, this is the woman who wrote several episodes and was an executive producer of the HBO black comedy "Six Feet Under" and ABCs ever- popular medical drama "Grey's Anatomy". Soloway knows what she's doing. The script for Afternoon Delight is depressing, but powerful. The first sequence in the film shows stay-at-home mom Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) attempting to get comfortable as her mini-van goes through the automatic carwash. There is sadness behind her eyes and a discomfort that sinks into the viewer the second they sense her unhappiness. Things only go downhill from there. Hahn is in therapy, but cannot get a word in due to the psychiatrist's stories of personal misfortune. Rachel's husband Jeff ("How I Met Your Mother" star Josh Radnor) is consumed by a job he hates. Then there's the group of Mom's at Rachel's son's school who are obsessed with doing charity events that Rachel is not passionate enough to do. All of this takes such a toll on the couple that they decide to go on a double date to a strip club, where Jeff buys his wife a lapdance from the squeaky-voiced stripper McKenna (Juno Temple). She fascinates Rachel, who starts visiting McKenna for reasons she does not entirely understand. When she hears of McKenna's hardships and offers for her to come stay with her family for a while, things spiral so far out of control that no one, including the audience, knows how they are going to cope.
While Radnor and Temple both give good performances in their respective roles, Hahn is the one who carries the movie. It is so great to see her in a larger and unique role, as she is usually known for playing side parts in comedies. Everyone who has seen her in anything knows that she is goofy and quick-witted, so seeing her play such an unfulfilled character is absolutely heartbreaking. Her character's emotions run so deep that it is at times hard to figure out what is motivating Rachel to do things, but you always feel sympathy towards her despite some poor decisions. There is one scene in particular where Rachel has a full-on breakdown that leaves a pit in your stomach that just will not subside. While the audience is left feeling unpleasant, it shows just what a phenomenal and underrated actress Kathryn Hahn is.
Afternoon Delight may be one of the most upsetting films of 2013, but that does not mean it is not worth a watch. It is great for what it is, having an outstanding lead actress and an excellent writer. It just may not be the kind of film you want to take a date on, and a sadness you may not be able to stomach again after your initial viewing.