Rated R. Opens Friday at the Kabuki and SF Centre 9.
As the Kathryn Hahn star vehicle we've been waiting for, writer-director Jill Soloway's Afternoon Delight knows what it needs to do. We meet Hahn's Rachel, a winningly vulnerable, semi-reluctant Silver Lake housewife, just as she's working out her goofy way of coping with aging-hipster angst. "How dare I complain?" she asks her therapist, played by Jane Lynch, before issuing an exaggerated, blackly comic disquisition about what life must be like, by comparison, for women in Darfur. But Rachel's problems are real to her, and they include having lost the sexual spark with husband, Jeff (Josh Radnor), whose response to the idea that they visit a strip club together is weary tolerance. It gets wearier when Rachel brings home a young stripper (Juno Temple) to be their live-in nanny. Complications ensue, along with an air of self-congratulation for handling this material in a more authentic way that mainstream Hollywood might. (Authentic to Silver Lake, anyway.) Still, Hahn completely owns it. Pushing toward catharsis, and toward the sort of climax only possible during unforcedly open-eyed lovemaking, the movie sets her up with a series of zingers — some funny, some sad — and she nails them all. "I want out," Rachel finally says in her inevitable blowup with Jeff. "Not out of this marriage; I want out of this head!" Supporting characters, meanwhile, are arranged as foils and amusements, but they have feelings too. Afternoon Delight is a film with no shyness about rape jokes, and some authority on the exhaustion that comes from a life spent trying hard to be cool. Soloway has staked her claim on edgy urban female neuroticism; more importantly, she's advanced Hahn's career.