Afternoon Delight

There’s a line in the Harvey Danger song Flagpole Sitta that I think of quite a bit: “if you’re bored you’re boring.” There is so much to see and do on Earth that anyone who can't figure out how to entertain themselves has to completely lacking in imagination, and I'm just not very interested in unimaginative people. As such, movies about suburban ennui are often very frustrating to me, since I just want to yell at them that it isn't hard to find a hobby.

When I was watching Afternoon Delight I divided it into two parts. The first half of the movie focused on a depressed housewife named Rachel who putters around the house until she has to pick her kid up from school. The biggest drama of this part of the movie is "will she snap at the other bossy moms at the school?", a question that didn't exactly invigorate me down to my loins. It felt like something I had seen before and didn't need to see again.

The second half of the movie shows what happens when Rachel allows a young stripper / prostitute named McKenna to temporarily move into her guest room. There aren’t a lot of movies about suburban ennui that move towards sex worker adoption, but it does kind of make sense here. After Rachel stumbles across McKenna, you can see why she would be fascinated by someone who lives her life a lot closer to the edge. The ethical argument that Rachel makes to her husband about wanting to offer a helping hand to someone who is legitimately in trouble isn't the whole story about why she's doing this, but it is also a good reason to do an insane thing. This part of the movie grabbed me a lot more than the first half did, because there's an interplay between Rachel's charitable and selfish emotions that's a lot more dynamic than the stereotypical ennui of the first half.

Rachel's character is well drawn in both parts, but adding a foil for her to play off of adds an exponential amount of interest into the story. The wallowing in the first half is not just un-dynamic, it is also not doing any heavy lifting beyond setting the stage for the second act. The second act, in contrast, is not just compelling because Rachel has real conflict with another character, it's also interesting because it is asking questions about the trade off people have to make between having a stable life and having an exciting life. The choices that she makes come close to ruining her life, but they also show her a way that she could make her life better than it was when she was just bored all the time.  I'm not sure that I think prostitute rescuing is the pastime that every blase person should adopt, but I am glad that Rachel finally did get a hobby, because it definitely made her life a lot more interesting.

Winner: Me

Afternoon Delight on IMDB