The moral lesson Afternoon Delight seems to thrust upon us is to never let a prostitute in your home. They’ll fuck you up – your husband, your kids, your wealthy good-looking friends, and even your wives. And all it takes is a game of poker, booze and Alabama Shakes and your home is an instant wreckage. It’s strangely moralistic, if not deeply conservative, for a seemingly liberal-minded indie film to suggest something so righteous and finite that the grey areas cinema is supposed to explore is suddenly wiped out into oblivion.
Afternoon Delight (catchy title, by the way) refers to the pre-supper sexual shenanigans that Kathryn Hahn’s bored suburban housewife is certainly not having, deriving no coital pleasure whatsoever from her jaded husband and bourgeois existence. Mid-life crisis dramedy ensues. Along the way, this profoundly beleaguered woman takes in Juno Temple’s freewheeling, flower-power hooker into her house, despite her being, y’know, a stripper. Don’t look at me, I’m not the best judge of any moral jamboree, but this film seems absolutely convinced of its retrograde social mores that no sooner its conflicted main character adopts McKenna the ‘sex worker’ for deceptively charitable purposes than she gets spat out of the middle-class abode.
Poor Juno Temple, clearly having a run of sexualised Lolita roles of late, suffer most of the film’s ambivalence and sheer lack of empathy that her character barely even gets screen-time as soon as she becomes treated as dirt-poor whore. She ends up as the film’s most blameworthy figure of hate, having wrecked not one but two marriages. And we’re supposed to sympathise with Rachel, a woman on the verge of dissolution, whose change of heart is triggered by the discovery that prostitutes do need to fuck to maintain economic lifeblood. It’s unfortunate for a film with so much potential in its cast, particularly Hahn who displays a splendidly nuanced and often beautifully tragicomic command to the role of Rachel, only letdown by Jill Soloway’s slapdash writing and misguided direction. To use a hooker as a deux ex machina for a couple’s revitalisation of their sex life is not progressive, it’s self-absorption.[separator type=”space”] DIRECTOR: Jill Soloway | CAST: Kathryn Hahn, Juno Temple, Josh Radnor, Jane Lynch | SCREENPLAY: Jill Soloway | RUNNING-TIME: 95 mins | GENRE: Comedy/Drama | COUNTRY: United States