Sky rockets in flight….
Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) is your typical, suburban mommy. She’s rich, she works-at-home, she cares for her kid, she has barely any sex with her hubby (Josh Radnor) and she routinely sees a therapist (Jane Lynch). But worst of all, she’s just bored. It’s that plain and simple. So, in order to fix that and get some spice back into her uneventful marriage, Rachel decides to go to a strip-club where she gets a private lap-dance from a much younger girl named McKenna (Juno Temple). The two don’t necessarily hit it off, as much as it’s just Rachel who sees McKenna as a possible source to not only cure her boredom, but make her feel like she is saving somebody from this world, if only it’s to take her away from the sex world. This is when Rachel gets the bright idea to have McKenna stay in her house and tell everybody that she is her “nanny”, while also trying to make sure that McKenna herself stays away from the pole, as well as her other job, being a high-class hooker. As the cracks in Rachel’s lie begin to show, so do the ones with her marriage, her friendships with her fellow neighbors, as well as her and McKenna’s relationship as well, which causes hell for just about everybody surrounded around them both.
Though it’s easy to characterize anybody who lives in the suburbs as “uptight”, “boring” and “stuck-up”, among other things, it’s not exactly fair. See, I actually live in the suburbs, even though I venture out to Philly for most of my natural, breathing-life, and I can’t help but see this differently sometimes. Some of the people that I do know that live in the suburbs, definitely don’t always have a firm grip on reality, or what actually is occurring out there in the world, so they just act like it’s all a big deal, and donate to a charity or some fund, just in order to make themselves feel better about their contribution to a needy-cause. That’s only “some” people I know though.
As for the others that I know, they’re just as simple as you or I. Sure, they don’t always have the best clue on what is really going on out there in the world, but they aren’t necessarily dummies either. If you take them into the city where crime and violence supposedly runs amok, they won’t fret or freak-out. Yeah, they’ll be a bit tense and all, but who wouldn’t?!?!
But what I’m trying to get at here is that most of the ideas we think we have about those upper-class, suburbanites, aren’t always exactly true, and I think that’s the type of idea this movie tries to get across – not just in its message, but through its main character, Rachel. See, here is the thing about Rachel: You know that she’s this woman who longs for something more and isn’t too into-her-own-head to get all bothered and bugged about what most of her neighbors get all crazy about. However, you can also tell that she still wants to look good in their eyes, not seem like a total “rebel”, and just make sure that she keeps the peace between her and all them, without ever stepping on their toes, or offending them in any way. And to be honest, when you watch Rachel, you can’t help but just root her on because you know that she’s a lovely lady and means well, but the group of gals that she’s thrown into, aren’t really the right fit for her and are the type of walking, talking and living cliches we usually see of these upper-class, suburban women: Uptight, boring and stuck-up.
However though, that same dilemma built for Rachel, is what makes her such a compelling character to begin with. We want to despise her and look down on her for being so dumb and thinking that she could, or “should”, save a girl like McKenna, who has practically been screwing, lying, cheating and stealing since she first learned how to speak; but by the same token, we also can’t hate her because she has good intentions, she does nice things for people and, at the end of the day, she’s just like you or me, and has the same wants, needs and pleads. It’s what makes her so interesting to watch, not because we never know how she’s going to react next to McKenna’s dirty and gritty world, but because we never quite know how she’s going to react to those other women around her. You know, the women she’s supposed to fit-in with, but yet, just doesn’t seem all that interested in doing so.
Writer/director Jill Soloway definitely made a smart decision in making someone like Rachel, feel as real and as genuine as you could get, but she also made an even smarter-decision in casting someone like Kathryn Hahn in the role, someone who, in case you didn’t know, loves to be very funny, crazy and wacky, just about ALL of the time. And in all honesty, I think that’s what makes this performance so worth watching: We know Hahn’s background and we know how much she can make us laugh, but watching her sort of play-up the whole serious side of acting-skills and actually emote, is really surprising to see on-screen, not least because she isn’t any good at it. Because she totally is and makes Rachel someone we can sort of connect with, as well as empathize with, because we all know she wants to do the right thing, even if her intentions are in a bit of a jumble as to why, and for what reasons.
But, make no mistakes, we never hate Rachel, nor do we ever hate someone like McKenna either, which is mostly due to the fact that Juno Temple practically has this whole “young, sexpot”-act down to a T by now. Though we hear that McKenna comes from a sketchy-background, I never once felt like she was all that bad of a woman to have around the house, or bring out into public. Sure, she’s been around the block maybe one too many times, but leaving her alone with my kid? Eh, I could do worse. However, leaving her around my hubby while I was gone? Not at all! But, once again, Soloway makes the smart decision in giving somebody like Josh Radnor, another dude we mostly see as the charming, funny dude in stuff, a dramatic role, but also, a very believable one as a husband that loves his wife, his kid, his house, his salary and his buddies he smokes pot and surfs with, but still may have that lingering-eye a few times.
Still though, the movie doesn’t always entertain the idea that Radnor’s character may actually go behind his wife and cheat on her with McKenna, which is sort of a disappointment, because there are many times where it seems like this movie could have definitely benefited from some more emotional fireworks thrown into the mix. I mean yeah, we get a couple of scenes where we see Rachel try and understand who McKenna is, where she comes from and why she loves what she does (screwing), but there was never enough to fully wrap us into either of their stories. They were sort of getting to know one another, but at the same time, sort of not. They were, more or less, just peaking into each other’s lives to see what it was all about – which I get was probably the point, but Soloway never allows for there to be much tension added into the proceedings.
Instead, we get a bunch of characters who are definitely very interesting and may make you reconsider some previous-stances you may, or may not, have had on those who choose to live far, far away from the suburbs, so that they can live in peace in harmony, without much excitement in there to shake things up. You can call their life-styles “boring”, and hell, you can even call it “unrealistic”, but for some people, this is probably for the best. So next time, just let those suburbanites settle into their lives and move, as you do the same. Unless you are one, then in that case, get outside, get your ass to the city and see what life is all about!!! Woo-hoo!
Consensus: Most of what Afternoon Delight presents here are used more as just thoughts, rather than as a full-blown idea to keep the narrative going, but when you have such great performances from the likes of Josh Radnor, Juno Temple and most surprisingly of all, Kathryn Hahn, it doesn’t hurt to just sit back and watch as these people live their lives. Even as monotonous and dull as they may be, at times.
7 / 10 = Rental!!