“Afternoon Delight” is an interesting look at married life that begins as a light comedy, but eventually takes an abrupt turn. Written and directed by Jill Soloway it tells the story of a bored stay-at-home mom whose unlikely guest in her home ends up shaking her life in ways she could not have predicted.
Kathryn Hahn stars as Rachel, an L.A woman who used to have a career, but gave it up when her husband Jeff (Josh Radnor) ended up making enough for the two of them and their son Logan. On paper that sounds pretty good, and as she tells her brutally honest therapist (Jane Lynch) she has no reason to complain when there are people starving in Darfur. Yet complain she does because things have become so stale in the bedroom she hasn’t had sex in six month.
At the suggestion of her sister Stephanie (Jessica St. Clair) she goes on a couple’s night out to a strip club in the hope the environment will re-ignite the sparks. Things don’t go quite according to plan since the experience later makes her puke in her bathroom. There goes the mood. However Rachel later runs into McKenna (Juno Temple), the young stripper who gave her a lapdance at the club. They strike a casual conversation and when McKenna finds her herself without a home, Rachel does the decent thing and offers her a place to live.
It is a pretty unusual situation, which takes Jeff quite by surprise when his wife tells him there is stripper sleeping in the guest room. Used to their suburban and ordinary routines, Rachel and Jessica look at McKenna as tough she was some sort of exotic animal. Thinking she could help her just like she helps the homeless, Rachel hires her as her son’s nanny, but things begin to get more serious when she learns McKenna doesn’t just take her clothes off for a living, she is a sex worker as well. McKenna talks meeting clients at the club like it was just any other job in the world, with one of her clients even making payments via PayPal.
The crux of the story is the interaction between Rachel and McKenna and the impact it ends up having on the marriage. Rachel is initially judgemental of McKenna’s lifestyle, wondering if she ever feels sorry for the wives of her clients. But then again, if there were no stale marriages just like Rachel’s, McKenna’s job wouldn’t exist in the first place. The more Rachel learns, the more it challenges her beliefs and the more it puts her outside of her comfort zone, leading to some very painful revelations.
Kathryn Hahn is excellent throughout, first playing Rachel as a person who is keeping her insecurities all wrapped up, but then ends up peeling layer after layer until everything is exposed. Josh Radnor also gets to evolve as a husband who is constantly glued to his phone and also gets to vent out his frustrations in a painfully realistic argument.
The premise of the movie is somewhat unlikely, but the characters and the way they speak feel quite real. The result is a sometimes funny, often uncomfortable look at a marriage on the edge.
(“Afternoon Delight” is out on DVD and Blu-Ray and is available on demand.)