Housewife Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) is in a wonderfully middle-class rut. Behind the veneer of a huge suburban house, a successful husband and dinner parties with the other neighbourhood mums, lies a sexless marriage, boredom-browsing on social networks, and a therapist (Jane Lynch) who keeps her in perpetual insecurity.
Gripping on to the idea of fulfilment of any kind, Rachel befriends McKenna (Juno Temple), a happy-go-lucky local stripper. Rachel hopes McKenna can inspire her to break the dry spell with her man, Jeff (Josh Randor). Inevitably, Rachel becomes deeply involved in McKenna’s life, offering a route out of a sex-fuelled lifestyle.
'Afternoon Delight' is more daring than the marketing would let you believe. Yes, the plot is contrived and yes, you must suspend your disbelief to give the drama a chance, but there are merits here. Rachel’s motivations for helping McKenna range wildly from boredom, to charity, to bi-curiosity, revealing perhaps unexpected mental health issues. There is more drama than comedy and yet the flow of the film is at its strongest when it is trying to be comic, with some naturally funny and sardonic conversations. Kathryn Hahn plays Rachel’s loveable side impeccably, but overcooks seriousness into melodrama.
There are brownie points for casting a support TV actress as a lead, particularly when a big Hollywood production undoubtedly would have opted for a sure-bet in someone like Catherine Keener. Nevertheless, no matter how much director Jill Soloway tries to keep focus on Rachel’s plight, Juno Temple is the big draw and scene stealer. From the pipeline of her future films, it is clear Hollywood also believes Temple is a major starlet. 'Afternoon Delight' is not very memorable, but it may just make you think twice before you voice any first-world problems.
'Afternoon Delight' is screening at the BFI London Film Festival. Find more info and screening times at bfi.org.uk/lff. Any sold out screenings will have limited tickets available in the returns queue at the venue on the day.