LFF: ‘Afternoon Delight’

We’ve all been there, grabbing ourselves a coffee, befriending troubled young girls outside strip clubs in the middle of the day and bringing them back to our family home. It happens to the best of us. What do you mean no? Exactly. This is essentially the reaction of one bemused husband (Josh Radnor) when his wife, Rachel (Kathryn Hann) brings back the tempestuous McKenna. Admittedly, this particular troubled teen is not a complete stranger – she’d given Rachel a lapdance (bought by her husband) a few days earlier.

Afternoon Delight is a surprising film, balanced somewhere between witty and raunchy comedy and a pensive relationship drama, but it is a nice balance and one that Jill Soloway masters in her feature debut.

Taking the paradigm of the sexually frustrated and unhappy Silverlake housewife to a new level, Kathryn Hann is superb as the impulsive but well-meaning Rachel. Struggling to manage her marriage, motherhood and her dwindling sex life and the holy grail of an open-eyed orgasm, it is through her unlikely friendship with stripper McKenna that she begins to see life in a new unblinkered way.  Juno Temple is disconcertingly convincing as the stripper-meets-babysitter-come-potential-homewrecker, injecting a vulnerability into her seduction that makes her only more alluring.

On paper, housewife reinvents stripper is a painfully overdone plotline but thankfully Afternoon Delight shies away from the made-for-TV format instead focussing on character rather cheap tit for tat. As comfortable as the barefoot babysitter as she is teaching the women how to twerk on the pool side, Temple’s McKenna is another standout performance from this young actress, one that expertly makes us crave more backstory on what brought this sweet young thing to the pole.

While motherhood and bad husbands may force these housewives to put their sex drives on the backseat, these ladies are certainly no prudes, sharing frank and hilarious anecdotes you don’t often see in LA suburbia. It’s a refreshing look at modern female sexuality, where tits and ass are everywhere but in for these ladies, ‘real life’ sex has to be scheduled in…

Gritty, sexy and unashamed, Afternoon Delight is all about the women, firmly positioning Soloway within the evolving canon of female comedy writer/directors to watch.

Afternoon Delight is screening on Monday 14 October, 9pm at Cineworld Haymarket.

The 57th BFI London Film Festival, in partnership with American Express, takes place until 20 October 2013. View the programme online: www.bfi.org.uk/lff

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