By Rianne Hill Soriano, Contributor

A social experiment

Posted on December 13, 2013

Movie Review
Afternoon Delight
Directed by Jill Soloway

WHAT HAPPENS if a suburban family woman’s dull existence leads her to invite a young stripper to her home? It may turn out to be an interesting social experiment. In the Sundance Best Director-winning feature Afternoon Delight, writer-director Jill Soloway paints a hilarious female-centric social satire set in Los Angeles’ bohemian, affluent Silver Lake neighborhood.

Kathryn Hahn as Rachel and Juno Temple as McKenna in Afternoon Delight
Things start light and airy in this kooky dramedy as a housewife seeks professional help to spice up her dormant sex life. After a night at a strip club with her husband and some neighborhood friends, something ignites both her moral judgment and her sexual fantasies. This leads to an obsession disguised as a social obligation for this curious wife and mother. She convinces her husband to open their door to the girl who gave her a lap dance. As the two very different women try to live under the same roof, the situation exposes interesting fragments of social class and morality issues. In no time, the newcomer in the middle-class family’s home unleashes a series of delightfully steamy encounters, many of which tend to happen in broad daylight.

In the ordinary circumstances this problematic woman faces at this stage of her life, her bold and unlikely choices soon unleash waves of colors that change her view of sexuality and relationships. As the generations and classes surrounding her gel and clash almost at the same time, a major life reboot happens not only to herself, but to the people around her.

The story works like an uncomfortable microscope exposing the intimate scale of modern relationships’ ups and downs.

The protagonist’s gripes are too commonly seen in most dramas and comedies that involve social and marital conflicts. Even the ensuing seriocomic mayhem the characters face are often predictable. Clearly, the premise chose a calculated “been there, done that” territory. Yet, the uneven but fascinating storytelling succeeds in drawing out rich nuances from the script, which is what primarily makes this film truly worth a watch.

Somewhere between the comedy and the drama, this film deals with the small bits of life within the circles of the family and the community. At times, these may eventually break through the surface as unexpected sources of heartbreak and sadness. As a raw character study, there is delicious discomfort in seeing different personalities plumbing complex depths of feelings beneath their stylish exteriors. Keeping the varying degrees of emotions convincing on screen may be quite a challenge, but the quick-witted and charming direction allows this cinematic piece to reach up towards unexpected heights.

This meticulously acted movie includes pitch-perfect performances from the ensemble cast. Kathryn Hahn renders a sympathetic lead role as Rachel. Playing front and center, she breaks through it all with the way she provides a glossy rumination on the life of an unhappy suburban wife and mother. She smoothly carries the narrative from one plot point to the next with her naturally entertaining lines. Juno Temple is also crucial in holding the story together with her happy hooker character McKenna. Her sweetly amoral persona becomes the stimulus to the many funny little moments in the story. Jane Lynch, in the supporting role of Dr. Lenore, offers a handful of bright one-liners that definitely add to the laughs.

Afternoon Delight delivers many small pleasures that, while they don’t exactly skyrocket in flight, they still come together into one rewarding package that is funny and trenchant. It captures a slice of life where dynamic characters alternately break and connect in an interesting manner.

MTRCB Rating: R-16