In “Afternoon Delight,” the feature bow of smallscreen scribe-producer Jill Soloway (“United States of Tara”), a familiar sitcom premise — a marriage that has lost its zing — literally gets tarted up when the wife takes a shine to a young sex worker and moves her into the family home. Although there are moments when it feels the plot might move in unexpected directions, in the end, the expected cliches reign. Visually undistinguished, with some good lines but broad performances, the pic is most likely to reach an audience beyond smug marrieds and urban hipsters in home formats.Thirtysomething Rachel (Kathryn Hahn, whose performance features much face contorting and hair tossing) knows she shouldn’t complain. After all, she’s got a beautiful home in L.A.’s Silver Lake; cute preschool kid Logan (Sawyer Ever); successful but distracted entrepreneur hubby Jeff (Josh Radnor); a social circle centered around the Jewish community center, as well as other similarly privileged moms; and even a preachy shrink (Jane Lynch). But something’s missing. Her everyday life is mediated by too much button pushing, she gave up her dream of journalism, and worse yet, she and Jeff are no longer having sex. When best buddy Stephanie (winsome Jessica St. Clair) suggests Rachel and Jeff whet their libidos by visiting a gentleman’s club full of female pole dancers, Rachel is treated to a private lap dance from lithe, slightly daffy blonde McKenna (Juno Temple, in whose kohl-rimmed eyes lurk reams of possibility). It’s not clear exactly what this encounter does to Rachel, but soon she is pursuing a friendship with the young stripper, who defines herself as “a full-service sex worker.” After Rachel installs McKenna at home, like some exotic new pet, the pic’s most interesting moments come from their private interactions. There’s the massage McKenna gives Rachel that obviously frees something within the married woman. And then there’s the scene — played for odd, uncomfortable laughs — where Rachel accompanies McKenna to watch her perform with her standing Tuesday afternoon trick. But midway through the pic, Soloway retreats from her walk on the wild side. The iron gates of conformity clamp down as Rachel turns judgmental and refuses to let McKenna babysit her friends’ daughters (never mind that she is supposed to be Logan’s nanny), leaving her conveniently free to drop in on Jeff’s poker night with the guys. Here the film recalls dozens of other crude mainstream comedies, albeit mostly from the Judd Apatow stable. As a sexy young thing serves them drinks in their man-cave (if only she could have turned into a pizza), the restless married guys get wild. Meanwhile, elsewhere, the wives drunkenly exchange stories about sex and abortion. Like the Kristen Wiig character in “Bridesmaids,” Rachel lets liquor loosen her tongue to regrettable effect. Assembly is pedestrian, production values mediocre. Lensing is sometimes so dark that the thesps’ features are lost in the murk.
A 72 production in association with Gamechanger, Rincon Entertainment, Whitewater Films, Echo Lake Entertainment with the support of Film Independent. Produced by Jen Chaiken, Sebastian Dungan. Executive producers, Julie Parker Benello, Allen Carpe Benello, James Burke, Chris Miller, Chris Kuenne, Rick Rosenthal, Nick Morton, Doug Mankoff, Andrew Spaulding. Directed, written by Jill Soloway.
Camera (color, HD), Jim Frohna; editor, Catherine Haight; music, Craig Wedren; music supervisor, Bruce Gilbert; production designer, Adriana Serrano; art director, Jean-Paul Leonard; costume designer, Marie Schley; sound designer (Dolby Digital), Wade Barnett; supervising sound editor, Eric Offin; re-recording mixer, Leslie Shatz; choreographer, Rie Katagiri; stunt coordinator, Bob Anderson; casting, Courtney Bright, Nicole Daniels. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 22, 2013. Running time: 102 MIN.
Kathryn Hahn, Juno Temple, Josh Radnor, Jane Lynch, Jessica St. Clair, Michaela Watkins, Josh Stamberg, Keegan-Michael Key, Annie Mumolo, John Kapelos, Noah Harpster, Suzy Nakamura, Sawyer Ever.