Thursday, 8 May 2014

Afternoon Delight

Out on DVD this Monday from Emfoundation, Afternoon Delight by Jill Soloway stars Kathryn Hahn as an unhappy surburban Mum who encounters a young stripper who reawakens her sexual longing that has been dormant for quite some time; think Belle de Jour transferred to Silver Lake, Los Angeles.

Hahn is perfectly cast as Rachel, the mum with the six year old daughter, but who is experiencing a lot of ennui and unhappiness with her married life to Jeff (Josh Radnor - How I Met Your Mother).  On a night out with friends to a strip club, she is bought a lapdance with a young stripper, Mckenna (Juno Temple) and her desire is awakened by this encounter.

After Mckenna is kicked out of her apartment, Rachel invites her to her home and save her from a life of debauchery, the youngster admits she is a prostitute and in her own words 'a whore'; yet rather than saving her, Rachel is drawn to the unseemly lifestyle and whilst her sex life is better with Jeff - when a stranger enters a family home, trouble is ahead.

Soloway does well with the script as a critique of enclosed communities satirising the Jewish community of bake sales and fund raising that is numbing Rachel.  Yet the scenes of sex are handled with a fear often seen in American cinema that is sometimes unsure with how to address the basic human need of intercourse.  This is a shame as both Hahn and Temple really jump into their roles with aplomb.

However, Soloway does make an interesting statement on the male gaze in cinema, by changing the gaze from the male to the female gaze of Rachel, and yet whilst Temple is merely a main vessel of the gaze for Rachel, she remains an object of desire also for Jeff and his male friends.  So is the male gaze questioned or just reinforced?  There's even a running gag of looking into each other's eyes during coitus and when clinking glasses for a toast.

Helped by some great performances by the two leading ladies and cameos from among others Jane Lynch as Rachel's 'inappropriate' lesbian therapist.  Soloway nails the film as an attempt to look at the unhappiness with the affluence of their surroundings, as Jeff says to Rachel, 'Not everyone is meant to be happy', yet by the film's end the couple have found an even keel following the intrusion of Mckenna into their sanctum.

Whilst released only a few months ago theatrically, there is certainly enough here to maintain people's attention and for Hahn it is a great opportunity to see her leading a film.

Afternoon Delight is out on DVD on Monday 12th May from EM Foundation

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