Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) tells her therapist she hasn’t had sex with her husband in six months, and feels guilty complaining about it.
“Women in Darfur walk 14 miles for water – raped on the way home,” she notes. On some level, writer-director Jill Soloway and her main character know the problems of an affluent Silver Lake neighborhood denizen in Central L.A. don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.
Unfortunately, Soloway’s script keeps the film mired in the shallow end, which is frustrating, because there are talented people working behind and in front of the camera.
See more of Rick's reviews at the Internet Movie Database (IMDb).
Rachel agrees to a suggestion from a married friend that they all go on a double date to a strip club. The place is in a sleazy part of town where sheltered, middle-class folks would unlikely venture late at night.
Rachel’s husband, Jeff (Josh Radnor) eyes McKenna (Juno Temple), a stripper who claims to be 19 years of age (she’s actually 22). He pays her to do a lap dance for Rachel, but when the couple arrives home, instead of the anticipated hot sex, Rachel barfs.
A week later, she runs into McKenna on the street. They spend time getting to know each other over coffee and cigarettes.
Long story short, McKenna’s boyfriend causes a public scene after his car is towed for a score of unpaid parking tickets. They argue, and McKenna ends up with nowhere to stay. Rachel then invites the stripper, who claims to be 55-days sober, to come home and live with her presumably sex-starved husband and four year-old son. The girl gets the maid’s room.
In a poolside scene, McKenna proudly announces that at work, she doesn’t just take off her clothes and run, like some girls. She’s a self-proclaimed full-service sex-worker, a term Rachel’s friend Stephanie (Jessica St. Clair) and therapist (Jane Lynch) need to have explained to them.
If this all sounds like a terminal eye-roller, it comes off even worse onscreen.
“Afternoon Delight” unfolds with the fantastical erotic logic of a porn flick – some of the sex scenes are even shot in the lo-fi production style of the genre – yet Soloway seems to want to make a serious, sometimes comic movie about relationships. Unfortunately, the jumble of styles and tones clash rather than complement; plotting and script feel absurdly contrived and nonsensical.
At a school fundraiser, Rachel gets stuck checking security bracelets with “Kosher Amanda” (Annie Mumolo), an unpopular sourpuss. Rachel was promised hot dog duty. The idea of having to work with Amanda is so odious she bails and instead accompanies McKenna on a “date” with a client.
Jack (John Kapelos) is balding, 50-something, lives in a high-rise penthouse and throws around lots of cash. Rachel is going to watch. Inexplicably, she behaves like she’s being taken to a slaughterhouse.
Soon after this incident, Rachel turns on McKenna. She orders Jeff to give her the news that she’s been pulled from a nanny-watch assignment. The gals are doing “Women and Wine Night” while the guys play poker and salivate over Jeff’s account of how a young, attractive stripper and prostitute wound up living with the family.
Meanwhile, McKenna gets into the liquor stash and saunters out to hang with the guys. Back at the wine soirée, the girls talk about their abortions – everyone’s had one – and how much sex they had in their 20s. In another movie, this scene might have worked. In the context of “Afternoon Delight,” it’s just unpleasant to watch Rachel’s teary-eyed lament over never having made a photo album of her son.
Cut to Funkedelic’s “Biological Speculation” on the soundtrack, as McKenna lapses into her work mode.
The final act cannot come soon enough. Rachel takes her child to Shabbat. Suddenly, Jeff decides it was a bad idea to have a 22-year-old, recently sober sex worker living in their home.
There are scenes that are potentially tragic, funny, serious or sexy if viewed in isolation, but in “Afternoon Delight,” we have to endure them as a cinematic whole. In the end, the garbled message to be derived from the behavior of these shallow, morally bankrupt characters collides with the phony feel-good ending like a head-on collision without seatbelts.
See playdates and locations for “Afternoon Delight” HERE.
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