‘Afternoon Delight:’ Hahnderful

I would like to extend my arms out to Jill Soloway, writer/director of Afternoon Delight, and wrap them around her in the huggiest of hugs, for being the one to finally put Kathryn Hahn in the front and center spot in a movie. Hahn has been the most consistently hilarious and versatile supporting player for what seems like forever. From Step Brothers to Parks and Rec to Wanderlust, she is simply always perfect. It was time for something meatier. And in Afternoon Delight, we get to see her delve into Rachel, a Silver Lake stay-at-home mom, the kind with a sleek house and a weekly shrink and a whole mess of internal struggles. And Hahn kills it. I mean, Oscar nom kills it.

Rachel, floating along in a fairly sexless marriage with her mostly agreeable but workaholic husband Jeff (Josh Radnor), decides to follow her friend’s advice and spice things up with a trip to a strip club. There, she gets an awkward lap dance from McKenna (Juno Temple), a, well, a stripper, and Rachel strikes up an unlikely and appropriately awkward friendship with her. Under the guise of wanting to help the girl, Rachel puts McKenna up in her spare bedroom, thereby inserting McKenna into her life of insufferable Jewish Community Center auctions, painful social outings with other unemployed moms, and that unspoken marital tension between her and Jeff.

For a good while, the movie simmers in that wretched mixture of Los Angeles white folk wealth and the extreme boredom and unfulfillment that can arise from seemingly having everything sorted out. And it’s great. The cast of Silver Lake couples is phenomenal; it’s a who’s who of established LA comedians and really wonderful actors. Michaela Watkins is a perfectly obnoxious LA Jewish mother/public function Nazi. Jessica St. Clair is the understanding friend who can sympathize, but only to a point, because things aren’t falling apart for her and she has a really attractive husband (Keegan-Michael Key, who is also impressive). Juno Temple is solid, a whimsical, gradual wrecking ball, swinging back and forth through their lives.

The dialogue is sometimes so real it hurts, and the other times it’s so funny you laugh out loud. Afternoon Delight reminds me a little of Mike Mills’s Beginners in that it’s very specifically about life in Los Angeles, where everyone has too much time on their hands, time that they spend thinking about what’s wrong with how they are spending their time. Adults in LA form families, get bogged down in responsibility and jobs and Priuses, and it becomes too hard to find time to smoke pot and go surfing. It’s a unique brand of self-sabotage and self-pity that becomes extra hard to wrap your head around because you know deep down that in relative terms, you’ve got it OK. That’s how Rachel begins the film, by explaining to her shrink that she knows she shouldn’t really feel this way because women in Darfur have to walk fourteen miles just to get water and inevitably get raped multiple times along the way.

Afternoon Delight sets its perspective well and manages, through some over-the-top humor, to not seem whiny and pretentious. It gets itself. It’s full of actors who probably live somewhat parallel lives to those of their characters – who navigate the perpetual youth culture of LA while trying to actually grow up, whatever that means these days. In that way, watching Afternoon Delight as a twenty-something LA transplant is a little bit unnerving and a lot a bit terrifying. That’s why it’s so good.

And man, Kathryn Hahn can act.

Grade: A

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