Afternoon Delight Hits at True Emotions Via a Thoroughly False Scenario


Marital instability isn’t fixed until, absurdly, it is—by introducing a prostitute into the household mix in Afternoon Delight, a film whose themes are as neatly laid out as its characters’ behavior is preposterous. Exuding a compelling messiness that deserves a better vehicle than this, Kathryn Hahn stars as Rachel, a stay-at-home mom whose loveless marriage to workaholic Jeff (Josh Radnor) drives her to invite home a stripper-cum-whore, McKenna (Juno Temple), from whom she receives a lap dance at a local club. Writer-director Jill Soloway coherently outlines the various dissatisfactions that lead Rachel to this decision, which soon involves hiring McKenna as a nanny for the couple’s preschool-age son, as well as tagging along to see McKenna screw one of her regulars. Especially during a drunken girls’ night, Hahn digs deep to locate the character’s ugly need and self-loathing. None of that changes the fact that the central conceit is impossibly contrived. When one of Rachel’s friends, post-cataclysmic events, tells her “you had to know better,” the censure is likely to inspire viewers to eye-rolls, given that it’s impossible to believe even the monumentally discontent Rachel wouldn’t have recognized this fact from the start. The result is a film that gets at true, tumultuous emotions via a scenario that’s thoroughly false.