Afternoon Delight is a lovely dramedy that answers the age-old question, will inviting a young prostitute into your home save your marriage? To get the answer you’ll just have to watch, and even if this is not a question that’s been eating at you, it’s worth checking out. Written and directed by Jill Soloway and comprised of a cast of actors you probably don’t know but have definitely seen before, Afternoon Delight is funny, emotional, touching, and so fantastically acted it will have you wondering why your only knowledge of the stars is, ‘Oh, she’s that girl from that thing!’
There’s much about Afternoon Delight to enjoy, but nothing more so than leading lady Kathryn Hahn, who stars as Rachel, an “average” stay-at-home mom who invites a stripper to live in her house with her husband and young son. Being a huge Parks and Recreation fan, I first recognized Kathryn Hahn as Jennifer Barkley, the splendidly malicious campaign manager of recurring guest star Paul Rudd’s doofy Bobby Newport. After doing some research, I discovered many of you may know her as Lily Lebowski on Crossing Jordan. I don’t, so I’ll no longer speak on that point, but I do know this; Kathryn Hahn’s the kind of actress who shows up in plenty of movies and television shows, but rarely gets the spotlight. Lucky for all of us, someone finally gave it to her.
Rachel could have been a character that’s incredibly easy to hate, but Kathryn’s performance is so human that every off-the-wall character choice somehow makes sense and every breakdown is so uncomfortably real I felt awkward bearing witness (I promise I mean this in a good way). Many comedies suffer from their turns into more dramatic plot points, but thanks to Kathryn Afternoon Delight only gains depth and more opportunities for her to prove she deserves more shots at a leading role. Gone are the days of Kathryn being ‘that pregnant lady from The Dictator.’ Hopefully we’ll be seeing much more of her in the future.
Of course, Kathryn isn’t the only person in the movie. Juno Temple, who I’ve been insisting people acquaint themselves with for years, co-stars as McKenna, the plot-driving stripper/sex worker. Most recognizably, Juno can be seen as Catwoman’s maybe-girlfriend for five seconds in The Dark Knight Rises, but she’s actually starred in an impressive amount films. Still, despite her indie top-bill heavy resume, Juno hasn’t really broken into household name territory. I demand we fix this, because not only is Juno adorable, she’s an engaging actress who continues to prove herself even when making somewhat consistently questionable career choices. Honestly, as much as I love Juno, this girl has a penchant for making some of the strangest indies I’ve ever seen, so it’s always nice when I can actually sit through and enjoy one.
Another standout player inAfternoon Delight is easily Jessica St. Claire, who plays Rachel’s best friend Stephanie. Every line she delivers seems so natural I couldn’t tell if they were actually improvised, and her chemistry with Kathryn is a treat to watch. I’ll definitely be seeking out her projects in the future. FormerSNL-er Michaela Watkins is spot-on as the poster child for the typical “Jewish soccer mom,” and I had no idea who Annie Mumolo was previously but her character, Kosher Amanda, steals the spotlight more than a character that’s intentionally supposed to be boring probably should. After IMDB-ing Annie, I discovered she was the lady in Bridesmaids who believed a colonial woman was on the wing of the plane (and also the film’s cowriter), so my inherent love for her suddenly makes sense. Josh Radnor (Ted on How I Met Your Mother) gets some like ability points as Rachel’s struggling husband, and Jane Lynch has a fun, if slightly forced, cameo as Rachel’s therapist, but these bigger names get enough attention in the media. This movie is driven by people who don’t usually sit in the driver’s seat, and they deserve the most applause here.
Afternoon Delight is not a perfect film by any means, but it very pleasantly achieves a level of indie satisfaction that can be quite a hit or miss in the genre. There’s a lot that can get frustrating about the events and character choices, but if you can accept the reality of the basic plot line, I feel you can roll with the punches here. There are some occasionally disturbing and/or graphic sex scenes, but nothing that would warrant any explicit warnings past the fact that this film is literally about a sex worker. As a Jew, it was also nice to see an unexpectedly multifaceted portrayal of Jewish characters and the different levels of importance Judaism has in their lives. I expected the sex, but I didn’t know I’d feel a stirring connection to my heritage, so that was a nice surprise.
If you’re looking for a fast-paced, action driven comedic romp, Afternoon Delightmay not be the movie for you. If you’re looking for a solid, low-key film with genuine and unusually well acted performances, add this to your future queue. If you really are wondering if inviting a young stripper into your home will save your marriage, think about that for a really long time and then perhaps re-evaluate your choices. Spoilers: it doesn’t work. Well, it kind of works. I guess you’ll just have to see for yourself.
"Afternoon Delight "opens in selected theaters August, 30.