MRR Review: "Afternoon Delight"

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Rachel, a stay-at-home mom, becomes obsessed with saving a stripper named McKenna.
3.5

MRR Review: "Afternoon Delight"

Rating: R (Sexual content, language, drug use)
Length: 95 min
Release Date: Jan. 21, 2013
Directed by: Jill Soloway
Genre: Comedy, Drama

On the surface, Rachel seems to have it all. She has a successful husband, a beautiful child, great friends, and a picturesque life in the upscale Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles. Jeff, Rachel's husband, has made a small fortune by developing and selling various phone applications, while Rachel has the luxury of staying home and hiring a maid to take care of the housework while she attends play groups and social mixers. Unfortunately, the novelty of the good life has worn off for Rachel and she finds herself overcome with boredom and a desperate longing for more. Meanwhile, her love life with her husband Jeff has dwindled to nonexistence. When the couple's good friends admit that they regularly visit a local gentleman's club to spice up their own love live, Rachel eagerly jumps on their invitation to try it out.

While at the club, Rachel receives a lap dance from McKenna, a 19-year-old exotic dancer who turns Rachel’s life upside down. She is instantly charmed by the young woman and becomes so fixated on her that she stages a run-in with her on the street. When McKenna is kicked out of her apartment, Rachel eagerly offers to take her in and houses her in their maid's room. A befuddled Jeff takes a while to adapt to their new live-in nanny, doubtful that her presence will bring anything good into their home. Under the guise of helping McKenna straighten out her wayward life, Rachel seeks to gain all the insight she can from someone who has lived a life that starkly differs from her own.

Throughout the film, Rachel is forced to face the fact of her own unhappiness, in spite of being surrounded by the very things most people believe to be a recipe for happiness. Rachel assumes that the primary culprit for her misery is her lackluster marriage, but as her character develops, she realizes that the real reason may have been inside her the whole time. While McKenna seems like a mess, she has her life more together than Rachel in many ways. While McKenna's external circumstances keep her from fulfilling her potential, Rachel's internal condition is what keeps her from being fulfilled in her marriage, career, and family life. Through McKenna, Rachel learns to let go of her ideal of happiness and start enjoying the small adventures that life brings her way.

Kathryn Hahn is brilliant as the leading lady in "Afternoon Delight." She plays the quick-witted Rachel with conviction, fleshing out a character who might seem flat on paper but is actually one of the most vibrant and empowered female characters in recent film history. Rachel's problems might seem small, but they actually point to deep struggles that many modern women will find relatable. Rachel experiences the powerful revelation that she isn't happy with her life because she wants more than the things society tells her she should be satisfied with. As the film progresses, Rachel learns to seek out her own intellectual fulfillment and to become empowered as a woman without needing anyone else to help her in the process. Although an exotic dancer may seem an unlikely bearer of such emotional growth and wisdom, McKenna proves to be just the breath of fresh air Rachel needs to wake up and start meeting her own needs.

"Afternoon Delight" may sound like a raunchy comedy at first glance, but the film couldn't be further from that stereotype. At its core, "Afternoon Delight" is the story of one woman's empowerment as she breaks out of the suburban mold and learns to enjoy her life. Rachel and McKenna, portrayed by newcomer Juno Temple, have brilliant on-screen chemistry as an unlikely duo. Temple gives a spot-on performance as the wide-eyed young performer who isn't nearly as innocent as she looks. While Rachel thinks she'll be the one teaching McKenna about life, the young woman proves that she has far more life experience and understanding than belie her 19 years.

"Afternoon Delight" is a genuinely refreshing film, and director Jill Soloway is well-deserving of her Sundance Film Festival award for Best Director. Jane Lynch rounds out the cast with her hilarious turn as Rachel's dry-witted therapist, and Josh Radnor from "How I Met Your Mother" is relatable and lovable as Rachel's husband, Jeff. If you happen to be in the mood for a quirky comedy that takes a casual yet thoughtful approach to some of modern life's most perplexing challenges, "Afternoon Delight" is a film that won't disappoint.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5