Kathryn Hahn’s Buzzworthy Performance in Afternoon Delight Arrives on Home Video (3/5 stars)

Sunday, February 16, 2014
By Kevin Crossman

One of 2013’s most buzzworthy performances lands on home video this week with the release of Afternoon Delight starring Kathryn Hahn. Hahn (We’re the Millers) toplines the indie dramedy from writer-director Jill Soloway, who won the directing award at Sundance last year. Also appearing are a host of familiar faces including Juno Temple (Year One), Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother), and Jane Lynch (Role Models).

Kathryn Hahn in Afternoon Delight

Kathryn Hahn in Afternoon Delight

Hahn stars as a L.A. housewife Rachel who is lost amongst the sea of over-active mothers, including her best friend Stephanie (Jessica St. Clair, Bridesmaids) and Jennie (Michaela Watkins, Wanderlust, Trophy Wife). While her peers are organizing charity events, Rachel is feeling increasingly disconnected since her husband Jeff is always working long hours. Stephanie convinces Rachel to go to a strip club where Jeff buys her a lap-dance with a young dancer named McKenna (Temple). Soon Rachel is obsessed with McKenna and ultimately ends up inviting her to live in their house. It is soon revealed that McKenna is a “sex worker” as well as a dancer, causing Rachel to question some of her long-held beliefs.

Afternoon Delight casts funny people in dramatic roles and also lets them improvize dialogue. The acting by the ensemble is naturalistic and tone-perfect. One noteworthy appearance is Lynch as Rachel’s therapist. The role is jokey in the first couple acts but has a surprising reveal in the third act. Meanwhile, Hahn gives a great performance as woman who still hasn’t really discovered herself even after getting married and having a child. The film explores the themes of self-expression and identity and Hahn’s subtle and touching performance is first rate. For those familiar with her over-the-top roles in We’re the Miller or Step Brothers, this performance will seem out of character. However, Hahn has done dramatic work in both film (How Do You Know) and television (Hung) in the last several years.

Kathryn Hahn and Jane Lync

Kathryn Hahn and Jane Lynch

Shot guerrilla style in the Silverlake neighborhood of Los Angeles, Soloway (The United States of Tara) effectively uses the cast and locations to tell the story of a couple who have taken themselves for granted. Radnor as the husband also is effective and never turns into a sterotype. The cinematography by Jim Frohna is another highlight of the film. Some of McKenna’s motivations aren’t explained very well, which is one imperfection for the film. The ending is not as satisfying as the rest of the movie as well.

This isn’t the kind of film that would shake your foundation or stick with you for days (except for maybe a sex scene involving Temple and John Kapelos of Breakfast Club fame), but is still worth watching now that it’s available on home video. The Blu-Ray/DVD arrives on February 18 and the film is already available on iTunes and other digital services. Certainly fans of Hahn’s comedic resume should welcome a chance to see her in a role with greater depth.

Juno Temple and Kathryn Hahn

Juno Temple and Kathryn Hahn

The home video release includes a commentary with Soloway and Hahn. Among the more interesting tidbits in the commentary are some of the details of how they were able to film on such a small budget; well worth checking out for aspiring filmmakers. There are some deleted scenes well worth watching as well as some behind the scenes material and character featurettes. There’s even a short feature on the architecture of the house from the film.

3

A copy of the film was provided for this review by Cinedigm. Afternoon Delight is available on DVD and Blu-ray on February 18.

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