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Marriage, stripped down

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‘AFTERNOON DELIGHT’ ★★

Rachel Kathryn Hahn

McKenna Juno Temple

Jeff Josh Radnor

Stephanie Jessica St. Clair

Dr. Lenore Jane Lynch

The Film Arcade presents a film written and directed by Jill Soloway. Running time: 93 minutes. Rated R (for strong, sometimes graphic sexual content, language and some drug use). Opens Friday at Landmark Century and Renaissance Place.

Updated: October 7, 2013 10:54AM



The biggest problem with “Afternoon Delight” is if these were the people in your neighborhood, you’d start looking for another neighborhood.

Just about everyone in this film — including the people we’re supposed to like or at least want to spend time with — is self-absorbed, whiny and depressed.

Even the kids seem about one tantrum away from medicated assistance.

Kathryn Hahn is an actress known mostly for deftly played supporting characters on TV shows such as “Parks and Recreation” and “Girls,” and in movies such as “We’re the Millers.” She can be very funny.

As the lead in “Afternoon Delight,” however, Hahn seems to be trying too hard. She throws herself into the part of Rachel, a stay-at-home mom deep in the throes of a thirtysomething life crisis, but so many of her choices seem designed to draw attention to how brave she is for baring her soul (and her body) and not about immersing herself in the character.

Perhaps Hahn found difficulty identifying with Rachel, who makes snarky remarks about most of the other mothers even as she often seems to regard her own son as a necessary accessory to her cushy life in the most affluent section of Silver Lake, Calif.

Rachel’s husband Jeff (“How I Met Your Mother’s” Josh Radnor, another talented actor who can be off-putting because he seems just a little too pleased with his own performance) hit it big by inventing a wildly popular app. You know those “emoticon” apps with the smiley faces and the animals and the other little icons we use to punctuate our text messages? Jeff came up with an app that uses your actual face making various expressions in place of the cartoon-y icons.

Yeah, that sounds creepy to me too.

After years of struggling, Jeff is obsessed with repeating his success. He spends all of his time at work or on the phone with work (or surfing or jamming with this garage-band buddies), while Rachel takes her son to preschool, dishes the dirt with the other wives and laments to her therapist (a terrific Jane Lynch) about the absence of sex in her marriage.

Enter McKenna (Juno Temple), a 19-year-old stripper and “sex worker” who becomes the object of Rachel’s fascination, which borders on obsession, after Rachel and Jeff and another couple go to a strip club on a lark.

Temple — admittedly not my favorite actress, and yes, I realize there’s a theme here — is all tattoos and Rapunzel hair and baby-doll squints as McKenna.

Stripping at night and having sex by appointment during the day, McKenna is a deeply damaged soul with a terrible backstory, and she’s on a dark, tragic life path — but as happens all too often in movies going back to “Risky Business” and beyond, the prostitute is portrayed as the most honest, most astute person in the room. At least McKenna knows who she is and doesn’t spend all day complaining she’s lost and slowly drowning. OK, sure.

In a move that defies all common sense, Rachel invites the suddenly homeless McKenna to stay with her family. She can be the new nanny! Jeff the distracted twit offers but mild protest when what he should be doing is telling McKenna she’s going to have to find another place, and telling Rachel she’s insane if she thinks he’s going to let a teenage stripper/stranger live under their roof and take care of their 5-year-old son.

Credit writer-director Jill Soloway for pushing “Afternoon Delight” into edgy, explicit, sometimes uncomfortable territory. A scene in which Rachel accompanies McKenna on a visit to an exceedingly polite but kinky older client (John Kapelos) goes from semi-erotic to awkwardly comedic to ugly and just plain wrong. It’s the pivot point for Rachel, but her reaction in subsequent scenes makes her an even less sympathetic character than before.

The two climactic, parallel scenes — a “wine club” gathering at which Rachel gets drunk and says horrible things to her friends, and a poker game with all the husbands — leave us rooting against just about everyone onscreen.

Doesn’t much matter what happens after that. Things play out in predictable fashion, and we’re more than ready to bid farewell to these people and feel grateful they don’t live on our block.

Email: rroeper@suntimes.com

Twitter: @richardroeper



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