Appropriate Behavior (2015)

Still reeling from a break-up? Have as much sex as humanly possible. (Not something that DTMMR actually condones.)

Being a closeted bisexual person living in Brooklyn is hard enough for one person to come to terms with, but being a closeted, Persian bisexual person living in Brooklyn must be even harder. That’s what Shirin (Desiree Akhavan) is starting to come to terms with, especially after the recent breakup with her ex Maxine (Rebecca Henderson). Now, with a new job (teaching filmmaking to five-year-old’s who are a lot more concerned with playing with toys than learning how to work a steady-cam shot), a new place (whom he she shares with two free-spirited, bohemian types), and a lot more time on her hands (which she spends hooking up with randoms she either meets at bars, online, or by pure coincidence), Shirin feels that this is the time in her life that she’s supposed to love and take full advantage of. So why is she so damn depressed all of the time? Well, it’s going to take an awful lot of self-reflection for Shirin to fully figure that out, which may be easier said, then done.

Painful first dates. Ammiright?!?!?
Painful first dates. Ammiright?!?!?

The similarities between Appropriate Behavior and Girls is almost so insane, that I totally forgot that writer/director/star Desiree Akhavan was actually in last week’s episode. Though I bet that many young, creative women in the film world credit Lena Dunham with bringing their passions to the screen once and for all, there’s something to be said for when movies become their own original pieces of work, and not just “slight imitators”. Though Akhavan’s film sometimes borders on crossing over to the dark side and seeming as if it could easily be something Dunham herself created in her off-time away from Girls, for the most part, this is Akhavan’s story, through and through.

What’s impressive here about Akhavan’s film here is that while she frames all of her characters, as well as the one she’s playing, who may or may not be exactly herself, as doing sometimes terrible, reprehensible things, she never once judges them for a second.

For instance, while it would be easy to automatically write-off Shirin as another winy, self-important, and entitled millennial that we’ve all seen too much of by now, Akhavan draws certain layers and dimensions of her that makes it seem like there’s a reasoning for the way she acts. Sure, a lot of what she does and says to certain people, may come off as incredibly selfish, but once you get to thinking of the situations she’s in (i.e. just recently being broken-up with), it all makes sense. For when somebody’s going through a tragic breakup, no matter what the circumstances may be, their actions are entirely out of their own self-interest; if somebody gets in the way of your happiness, then screw them. It’s your life. You want to live it and also, if so, make yourself as happy as you can possibly be.

In a way, there’s something inherently sad about Shirin’s life that we see here, but Akhavan doesn’t shy away from showing some of the funnier-aspects of one’s own life when a little chuckle or two, can practically save a day of loathing. Though Shirin sometimes takes herself a tad too seriously, the people she surrounds herself with are usually the ones we spend our time laughing at – though Akhavan is smart enough to not allow them to become caricatures. Scott Adsit plays a dope that gets Shirin a job, who seems like he’s a bum, but is one that means well enough that it’s easy to see Shirin striking-up a friendship with; Halley Feiffer is Shirin’s best friend who hardly ever judges Shirin on what she does and, more or less, shows her that there’s more to life than just moping around over a loss of a spouse, as there’s plenty more fish in the sea; and Rebecca Henderson, despite maybe not being the best actress in the world, still shows us that Maxine, despite slightly being made-out to be something of a villain in this story is, more or less, a woman who Shirin had a relationship with and ran into too many problems with. She’s neither a great person, or a bad one – she’s just a person with her own thoughts, ideas and reasons for living.

That's how it starts - drunk-talk on New Year's Eve.
That’s how it starts – drunk-talk on New Year’s Eve.

But through it all, Akhavan never forgets that there’s more meat to this story, which means that the tone does shape, shift and turn in certain ways that you won’t expect it to. Sometimes, it works, but other times, it seems like Akhavan is a little uncomfortable with just allowing for a scene to play without any certain piece of comedy playing through in uncomfortable, awkward ways.

The one scene where that doesn’t happen, and instead, the awkwardness plays out perfectly, is the most memorable scene of the whole movie, and not for the reasons that it may seem like. It all starts when Shirin gets invited to a threesome with a random couple she meets at a bar – though it starts off quite hot, steamy and erotic, slowly but surely, the wheels begin to turn, and it begins to change. The scene actually becomes funny, in awkward-sense I mentioned before, but then, ends on something of a sad note that makes us understand this character of Shirin better than ever before. She wants to be accepted, loved and seen as an equal, and not just a sad, little pup, even though she can sometimes be perceived as such.

It’s easily the best scene of the whole movie. It shows that maybe while pieces of Akhavan’s film don’t fully add up, there’s at least smaller ones that make this personal trip of hers, less exclusive to her or any other bisexuals out there, but to anyone who has ever gone through a rough patch. Not just with relationships, but with life in general.

Consensus: Sometimes funny, other times, sad, but as a whole, Appropriate Behavior ushers in a new, slightly fresh-voice within Desiree Akhavan that deserves to be heard and understood, regardless of if you’re bisexual or not.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Perfect thinking-spot.
Perfect thinking-spot. Take your time, hon.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images


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