The problems that Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) faces in Afternoon Delight (opening today) are relative...the film even starts off with her pointing out that it's not like she's in Darfur, being raped on her way to get water for her family. And that was my take-away from watching director Jill Soloway's first feature-film: Eh, it could have been worse.
Rachel is a mother stuck in a sex-less marriage who, like many others it seems, becomes bored with her mundane "normal" life. She sees a wacky therapist (Jane Lynch) and although she makes small efforts, she just can't get excited about her husband, Jeff (Josh Radnor). They seem to be in love and seem to have a great life, but we learn early on that Rachel feels empty hanging out with the other super-involved moms from school.
Getting an idea from her friend, Stephanie (Jessica St. Clair), Rachel talks Jeff into going to a strip club in an attempt to spice up their sex life. At the club, she meets a young stripper named McKenna (Juno Temple). Is Rachel turned on? It's not quite clear, but something about McKenna sparks Rachel's interest.
So the next day she finds out where McKenna gets her morning coffee and befriends her. Like so many that encounter strippers - ahem, or so I'm told - Rachel feels the urge to save McKenna from her poor lifestyle choice, figuring she is just a few good breaks away from seeing the light and living a more respectable life. She brings McKenna back to her house and she becomes the nanny.
McKenna's presence has a pretty serious impact on Rachel's life, her marriage and her friendships to the neighborhood moms.
Shot with a confident indy vibe, Afternoon Delight is not a sitcom, although the whole "fish out of water" theme may point to that realm. It is sprinkled with some bits of witty, often times laugh-out-loud dialogue, that keeps you interested in the characters. Afternoon Delight though, is mostly lacking in tone, shifting from satire to serious drama and doing neither any real justice. Fine performances from Hahn, Radnor and Temple still doesn't clarify some of their character's motives.
I'm sure that some of these themes are going to be relatable...written and directed by a female, there are certain scenes in the film - like when a group of women discuss imagining Michael Fassbender during sex - that could never have been written by a man. But while we know Rachel isn't happy and that she is suffering from "the grass is greener" syndrome, it's not all that clear how things transform into the shiny-happy conclusion that the film lands on. Surely, only in the movies can a story be wrapped up so tidily.
Afternoon Delight felt a bit disjointed because of all of the tonal shifts, making it just an "okay" experience made slightly better with a few memorable one-liners strewn about.
But again, it could have been worse.
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Run Time: 1 hours, 35 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Kathryn Hahn, Juno Temple, Josh Radnor, Jane Lynch, Michaela Watkins, Jessica St. Clair
Written & Directed by Jill Soloway (feature-film directorial debut)
Opens locally on Friday, Sept 6, 2013 (check for show times).
Be sure to watch Tom Santilli on TV! Check your local listings for “Movie Show Plus” for Tom’s weekly movie review segment, airing at 3 p.m. EST on MYTV20 in Detroit.
How to read Tom Santilli's "Star Ratings:"
- 5 Stars: Exceptional, must-see movie
- 4 Stars: Very good movie, not without flaws
- 3 Stars: The movie was just OK, leaves a lot to be desired
- 2 Stars: Pretty bad, a let-down, disappointing, but with some redeeming qualities
- 1 Star: Awful, sloppy, a total waste of time