‘Afternoon Delight’: Stripper spices up this talky comedy
A movie review of “Afternoon Delight,” an uneasy comedy about a discontented wife and mother (Kathryn Hahn) who hires a stripper (Juno Temple) as a nanny and tries to lead her away from a degrading life.
The New York Times
‘Afternoon Delight,’ with Kathryn Hahn, Juno Temple, Josh Radnor, Sawyer Ever, Jane Lynch. Written and directed by Jill Soloway. 93 minutes. Rated R for strong, sometimes graphic sexual content, language and some drug use. Pacific Place, Sundance Cinemas.
The New York Times does not provide star ratings with reviews.
“How can I complain? Women in Darfur walk 14 miles to get water and are raped on the way.”
That reflection, intended to pre-empt accusations that the speaker is a spoiled self-absorbed ninny oblivious to the suffering of others, is offered by Rachel (Kathryn Hahn of “Parks of Recreation”) directly to the camera in the opening moments of Jill Soloway’s uneasy comedy “Afternoon Delight.”
Rachel is a discontented wife and mother who lives in the affluent Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles with her husband, Jeff (Josh Radnor), and young son, Logan (Sawyer Ever).
The family lives in tasteful splendor and Rachel’s social life revolves around her gabby circle of friends. Her malaise comes down to that usual marital complaint, a lack of sex.
At the suggestion of a friend, Rachel and Jeff visit a strip club to absorb its erotic buzz. She accepts a lap dance from McKenna (Juno Temple), a 20-year-old blonde and self-described “full-service sex worker.”
Returning later to the club, Rachel sees McKenna on the street, discovers that she is between apartments, invites her home and impulsively suggests that she stay on as a nanny. Rachel has a vague idea of “rescuing” McKenna from a degrading life.
The free-spirited McKenna is the movie’s most compelling and likable character. Sweet-natured and frisky, she lives from day to day, neither judging herself nor others.
Because this talky, uncinematic movie portrays bourgeois Los Angeles as peopled by bored, yammering wives whose husbands are happier playing cards or sports than spending time with them, it is easy to view them as smarter, wittier, less-narcissistic equivalents of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” minus cosmetic surgery.
Even so, by the end of “Afternoon Delight,” which won Soloway a directing award at the Sundance Film Festival, you find yourself mulling over a nagging question: Is that all there is? Could be.