Afternoon Delight (2013)

(On Cable TV, November 2015) I’m not sure how or why Kathryn Hahn ended up associated with raunchy comedy in my mind (although watching her roles as borderline-deviant in Bad Words and This is Where I Leave You probably explains it), but it may have led to wrong assumptions in watching Afternoon Delight.  Billed as a low-key comedy in which a frustrated suburban mom changes her life after befriending a stripper, Afternoon Delight ends up being a somewhat miserable drama in which a well-off mother uses then discards a sex worker to rekindle her marriage.  This sounds worse than it is, but the truth is that there’s a surprisingly reprehensible way to read Afternoon Delight that may not be what writer/director Jill Soloway intended.  In-between the naturalistic staging, unspectacular camera work, tonal issues and decidedly un-triumphant ending in which a character gets sidelined after serving her purpose, Afternoon Delight is the kind of independent low-budget drama that seduces with an interesting premise and unsettles with an intensely uncomfortable third act. (That princess-trinket scene… heart-breaking.)  Hahn does quite a bit better as a complex lead character than in her more usual scene-stealing comic roles, while Juno Temple is also quite good as the young woman who upsets the protagonist’s world – both of them, though, aren’t well-served by the end stretch of the film, which seems happy throwing away an entire character just to make its lead couple happy.  Maybe that’s the point; maybe that’s an accident –all I know is that by the end of Afternoon Delight, I didn’t want anything to do with anyone in the film.

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