There's nothing delightful about "Afternoon Delight"

By Sean Burns
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Sep. 11, 2013

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Kathryn Hahn (left) and Juno Temple in "Afternoon Delight."

They might as well just have called it White People Problems. Mistaking smug self-awareness for satire, Six Feet Under scribe Jill Soloway’s rancid debut feature attempts to skewer yuppie privilege while accidentally wallowing in it. TV’s secret weapon Kathryn Hahn, who you’ve probably seen on Parks and Recreation or Girls, gets a rare leading role as a bored housewife living in L.A.’s pseudo-bohemian Silver Lake neighborhood, a moneyed oasis of pre-school overachievers and soy pizzas from Whole Foods.

Soloway kicks off Afternoon Delight with a pre-emptive strike against critics of the film’s cosseted pettiness. Grousing to her self-involved therapist (Jane Lynch), Hahn’s Rachel admits that the troubles of her sexless marriage are inconsequential when compared to all the women getting raped every day in Darfur. It’s a queasy, not funny-enough riff that goes on for much longer than it should. (Yeah, rape jokes are “edgy.”) So you’re going to start off the film admitting the protagonist’s problems don’t matter much, and then make us sit through them anyway?

An ill-considered attempt to make her app-designer husband (Josh Radnor, blandness personified) look up from his iPhone lands the couple in a strip-club, where Rachel receives a lap-dance from 19-year-old McKenna, played by the great Juno Temple. This sprightly sex kitten has been stealing scenes for the past few years in everything from Killer Joe to The Dark Knight Rises, possessed of an exuberant naughtiness that seems to belong to an era far less puritanical and scolding than our own.
Quite improbably, McKenna becomes Rachel’s pet project, moving into the unhappy couple’s home and even helping out with nanny duties when she’s not turning tricks downtown. Afternoon Delight’s only remotely appealing character, McKenna turns out to be a recovering addict trying to keep a sunny disposition while making her way through a cruel and dangerous world.

Depressingly, the movie treats her worse than any of her clients ever did. McKenna exists to perform a function—repairing the marriage of two wealthy and uninteresting people. After helping Rachel get her groove back, McKenna is humiliated and appallingly discarded without a second thought on the way to what Soloway appears to consider a happy ending.

The poor disposable prostitute is back on the streets after a relapse, and I suppose there are still women being raped every day in Darfur. But at least these tedious, self-obsessed rich people started fucking each other again.

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