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SFF’13 Movie Review: “Afternoon Delight”

January 29, 2013

Screen shot 2013-01-29 at 6.54.33 PMMy last night at Sundance I attended the world premiere of Jill Soloway’s dark comedy, “Afternoon Delight”. Soloway makes her feature debut as a director, but she’s no stranger to the writing territory. Jill has worked for such shows as “Six Feet Under” and “United States of Tara”, so it comes to no surprise that she would make a her first feature a dark comedy of sorts.

Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) is a quick-witted and lovable, yet bored out of her mind house wife. With some screwy advice from her friends to spice up her love life, Rachel visits a strip club with her husband (Josh Radnor) and two friends. There she ends up meeting McKenna (Juno Temple), a stripper whom at first she believes there’s this sexual chemistry, but soon enough becomes obsessed with saving poor McKenna from a life so low. Rachel hires McKenna as her live-in nanny, a domino effect begins impacting Rachel, her family, and friends. It becomes clear that Rachel is feverishly, desperately trying to save her own sense of who she is.

This is a good movie, not a great one, but a good one. It has good qualities saving it from becoming a disaster, for one, Kathryn Hahn’s performance. Hahn gives an undeniably charming performance, she knows how to be funny (look at any Funny or Die video), but she’s given the opportunity to stretch her dramatic chops, and even when the movie does become a bit uneven by the end with it’s tonal shift, Hahn holds it at her own.

The biggest issue with the movie is it’s tonal change by the last 25 mins, it becomes a whole different movie, goes down some questionable turns, and bizarre areas. Sure, I get it, it’s for the good of the story, but I think it just could’ve been handled better than what was offered to us. Also, Juno Temple, I like her, I think she’s a great actress (look at “Killer Joe”), but her chemistry with just about everyone in this movie doesn’t jive. Especially her interactions with Hahn, which is the core of the film. The rest of the supporting cast is at fair game here; Michaela Watkins is a scene stealer as one of the over-eccentric Jewish mothers Rachel is friends with.

All in all, it’s not a bad start for writer/director Jill Soloway, but she’s left room for improvement if she’s willing to continue on as a director. I think the story is good, it’s an interesting story, it’s one of those mid-life crisis’ films with it’s own sweet/sour twist. Not bad, but not the best comedy to ever hit Sundance.

GRADE: B-

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