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dir-scr Jill Soloway
prd Jennifer Chaiken, Sebastian Dungan
with Kathryn Hahn, Juno Temple, Josh Radnor, Jane Lynch, Jessica St Clair, Sawyer Ever, Josh Stamberg, John Kapelos, Keegan Michael Key, Michaela Watkins, Annie Mumolo, Suzy Nakamura
release US 30.Aug.13, UK 28.Mar.14
Unlikely friends: Temple and Hahn
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
A comedy that travels to some startlingly dark, bleak places, this film takes an intriguingly messy look at sexuality and relationships. With solid performances, there are no easy resolutions here, as the characters essentially have to work out their own issues in order to get on with each other.
Rachel (Hahn) has a happy life as a stay-at-home mum with her preschool-age son Logan (Ever) and hotshot app-creator husband Jeff (Radnor). But she misses her lively sex live. So her best friend Stephanie (St Clair) suggests visiting a strip club to spice things up back home. Rachel meets lap dancer McKenna (Temple) there, and later orchestrates an accidental meeting. As the two become friends, Rachel discovers that McKenna needs a place to live and offers her the spare room and a job as Logan's nanny. Jeff is understandably unsettled by this.
After a string of solid supporting roles, it's great to see Hahn in a leading role. She's terrific as a complex woman trying to cope with a life she wasn't expecting. Her chats with her therapist (a straight-talking but still funny Lynch) reveal the usual issues, mainly her stale sex life with her husband. And the way she reaches out to this potentially dodgy young stripper is rather inexplicable, both to her and to us. Which gives the film a messy kick of honesty.
Temple is marvellously offhanded as McKenna, never dipping into the usual stereotypes even as she effortlessly tries to meet the needs of whoever she's around. And even though what she does is deeply inappropriate. Everyone around the edges of the film is raw and natural, from Radnor's nicely perplexed turn as Jeff to Rachel's riotous group of fellow mums (St Clair, Watkins. Mumolo and Nakamura).
In the end, writer-director Soloway never tries to give us a tidy message to take home. She continually muddies the situation with moral ambiguity, pitting compassion against social expectations so that we are forced to think about how we might react in the same situation. But what makes the film so enjoyable is its refusal to play into the usual male-dominated ideas of female sexuality, which gives the story a fresh level of honesty that's both jaggedly funny and surprisingly moving.
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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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