Gifted cast can’t make comedy-drama a ‘Delight’

The Starland Vocal Band is nowhere to be seen (or heard) in “Afternoon Delight,” so there’s another lost opportunity for the ’70s one-hit group to come back.

This “Afternoon Delight” has more serious fish to fry, even if it’s full of strong comic actors.

The movie is arranged around comedian-actress Kathryn Hahn, who — whether parachuting for the length of a story arc into ongoing series such as “Parks &Recreation” or cutting a bizarre path through “Step Brothers” — has been threatening to bring her particular brand of funny-weird to center stage for the best part of a decade.

Hahn is allowed to make her mark, and then some, in “Afternoon Delight.” She plays Rachel, a stay-at-home mom whose disenchanted life is shaken by her encounter with an exotic dancer, McKenna (Juno Temple), during an evening when she and husband Jeff (Josh Radnor, from “How I Met Your Mother”) double-date with friends at a strip club. (Couples in movies have been known to do this.)

McKenna is soon staying at Rachel and Jeff’s place, an awkward situation complicated by McKenna’s sideline as a prostitute.

Writer-director Jill Soloway (who won the directing prize at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year) would have us believe that Rachel’s midlife crisis might accommodate all this and more, and maybe in a better movie it could.

Soloway does her best to remind us we’re not watching a pure comedy, as she regularly includes scenes of idle boredom and cringe-worthy behavior.

If the film works at all, though, it’s because of the comedy. Any time Hahn is let off the leash — for instance, at a hen party where she tipsily insists on toasting her friends while staring soulfully into the eyes of each — she’s all skyrockets in flight.

There’s also Jane Lynch, stealing a few typically crisp moments as Rachel’s over-sharing therapist, and the splendid Michaela Watkins and Jessica St. Clair, as friends whose personalities roughly fit the molds of Fran Drescher and Chelsea Handler — though each actress is distinctive enough to break those molds.

As funny as its isolated moments can be, “Afternoon Delight” opens up too many cans of rubber snakes. Soloway seems to be aiming at the kind of observational groove that Nicole Holofcener and Lisa Cholodenko get in their films, but with some Judd Apatow stirred in.

The mix doesn’t quite become Jell-O, and it’s further proof that the plot device of the soulful striptease artiste deserves a break from contemporary movies.

“Afternoon Delight” (2 stars)

The midlife crisis of a stay-at-home mom (Kathryn Hahn) takes the form of inviting a stripper to stay at her home — a situation worked for both comedy and drama in this uneven movie. The comedy works best, as Hahn is a gifted comic actor and the cast is full of funny people, but it’s not quite enough to make the mix work.

Rated: R, for nudity, language.

Showing: Pacific Place, Sundance.

More in Life

New documentary chronicles Obama’s last year in White House

“The Final Year” doesn’t paint the administration in rosy colors, but it isn’t too critical either.

‘Forever My Girl’ takes a page from the Nicholas Sparks genre

The film based on a novel by Heidi McLaughlin is a well-worn tale of lost love and redemption.

Curries continues home-cooked Indian cuisine at new location

The restaurant, now located on Evergreen Way, also puts an Indian spin on Northwest cooking.

International guitar tour led by Lulo Reinhardt stops in Edmonds

International Guitar Night, now in its 18th year, is Jan. 24 at the Edmonds Center for the Arts.

New Cascadia Art Museum exhibit showcases mid-century designs

The exhibition includes ceramics, furniture, clothing, sculpture and jewelry from 1948 to 1966.

This beefy ex-cop has a delicate hobby: intricate paper-cut art

You can see Tom Sacco’s creations at the upcoming Everett Art Walk.

Slow-roasted vegetables make sumptuous sauce for pasta

Make the basic but good spaghetti with red sauce blissfully better with this recipe.

Mocking meatloaf: One man’s loaf is another man’s poison

Some don’t like it and some do. Here are six meatloaf recipes to try.

Roasted Brussels sprouts can be the apple of picky eater’s eye

Toasted sesame seeds and diced apple add flavors that compliment the sprouts’ earthiness.

Most Read