|Juno Temple, left, and Kathryn Hahn, right, in Jill Soloway's AFTERNOON DELIGHT|
Photo courtesy of The Film Arcade
2013, 97 minutes
Rated R for strong sometimes graphic sexual content, language and some drug use
Review by Joshua Handler
Winner of the U.S. Dramatic Directing Award at this year's Sundance Film Festival, Afternoon Delight is not worthy of that prize, but proves to be a fairly good showcase for writer/director Jill Soloway's talents, as she shows some serious promise as a fresh new voice in American Cinema. Afternoon Delight tells the story of Rachel (Kathryn Hahn), a bored housewife who decides to take in a stripper, McKenna (Juno Temple), as a nanny for her young son.
Soloway has a sharp ear for dialogue. There is no doubt about that. She captures the lives of modern Jewish moms so accurately that I felt like I was watching my family members. The conversations are hilariously realistic and, at times, extremely uncomfortable to listen to. It is with these uncomfortable moments, though, that Soloway shines. She throws these moments in out of nowhere, almost as if she wants to make sure her audience is still awake, and as uncomfortable as these moments are, they are very funny and revealing.
For the first 80 minutes of Afternoon Delight, Soloway has something solid. She wrote some really good dialogue, created a good world, and tells a somewhat compelling story. Suddenly, though, Soloway loses what she had by tidying everything up far too quickly, adding in an odd dose of unpleasantry, and making everything far too predictable and contrived. It is at this point too that it became evident that Soloway had built a story up that was set up to go nowhere. By the time Afternoon Delight falls across the finish line, it is an aimless mess, which is truly too bad, as I was enjoying it up until then. If Soloway works on her story structure, she should have a big hit somewhere down the road.
The big saving grace of Afternoon Delight is its performances, particularly those of Kathryn Hahn (We're the Millers, Revolutionary Road) and Juno Temple. Hahn is a revelation as Rachel. In this film, she is as close to a modern-day Jewish mother as anyone I've seen on film. An adept comedienne, Hahn shows that while she is funny, she's a serious actress, and her ability to conjure up a large range of emotions using solely her face is her greatest asset.
Juno Temple (Killer Joe, Lovelace, Atonement) has a big career ahead of her. The diversity of roles that she has played over the past few years is truly incredible and with each role she takes, she brings depth that many other actors wouldn't bring. This is particularly evident in Afternoon Delight. She could have played McKenna as a stereotypically ditzy, trashy stripper. However, she plays her with far more depth. She plays her as a human being, not an object or stereotype, and makes McKenna a character to care about.
Jane Lynch has a wickedly amusing supporting role as Lenore, Rachel's psychiatrist and Josh Radnor is quite good as Rachel's workaholic husband, Jeff.
I have one final complaint with this film: it looks as if it wasn't color-corrected. I realize that Soloway may have tried to match the look of the film with Rachel's state of mind, but whatever the case, it looks as if Soloway shot the film and never bothered to make it look good. The coloring is very bland, which takes away from much of its life.
Overall, Afternoon Delight is a bit of a mess, but worth viewing if you can relate to its characters. It is truly an actor's showcase and watching Hahn and Temple work their magic is really something special. This is not a film I'd recommend seeing in theaters, as there is far too many better movies in theaters, however this would make a good rental, as it has a lot going for it.