Big tease, small payoff in 'Afternoon Delight'

After befriending a young stripper, a bored mom raises tantalizing issues, but never resolves them.

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Juno Temple primps Kathryn Hahn in “Afternoon Delight.”

The stay-at-home moms of L.A.’s tony Silver Lake neighborhood have it all — Pilates-toned bods, Lilly Pulitzer sundresses, nannies. But witty, restless Rachel (Kathryn Hahn), married to a successful game developer, feels unfulfilled, especially in the bedroom.

When the couple go to a strip club in an attempt to spice things up, Rachel gets a lap dance from McKenna (the delightful Juno Temple). Absorbed with curiosity about her pole-dancing polar opposite, Rachel seeks her out and offers her a more respectable job as live-in nanny. Nice gesture. But it soon becomes clear that Rachel, who finds out that McKenna is also a prostitute, is just as interested in vicarious dark thrills as she is in giving someone a hand up.

Hahn (“Parks & Recreation”) shines in her first starring role, providing most of the film’s laughs, drunkenly ranting at a wine-tippling klatsch, being a reluctant but fascinated third wheel on one of McKenna’s “dates.” She turns a character who would be easy to hate into someone you’d want as a BFF. Temple, cute as Hello Kitty in a thong yet believable as a self-aware sex worker, mesmerizes.

Writer/director Jill Soloway, (“United States of Tara,” “Six Feet Under”) knows how to create sophisticated drama that dares to go wherever “there” might be. She excels at drawing out nuances in female friendship. Here, though, she promises an uncomfortable exposé of middle-class morality, then doesn’t follow through.

After a predictable but squirmingly well-executed climax, in which vengeful McKenna mingles with a bunch of drunk poker-playing husbands, two-way guilt leads to renewed appreciation of Saran-wrapped prosperous lives and … enthusiastic intramarital sex.

Wait … huh? Hahn teeters on the ledge of her solar-power bay window, then jumps into her pool with a “just-kidding” grin. When having it all makes you just sooo bored, it’s only natural to go looking for trouble. But to find it, explore it and then retreat into your cashmere-lined cocoon without having really learned anything — that’s unforgivable.

 

Kristin Tillotson • 612-673-7046 • Follow on Twitter: @StribKristin

  • afternoon delight

    ⋆⋆½ out of 4 stars

    Rating: R for strong, graphic sexual content, language and some drug use.

    Theater: Uptown.

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