Director: Desiree Akhavan
Cast: Desiree Akhavan, Rebecca Henderson, Halley Feiffer and Scott Adsit
Running Time: 90 minutes
Release Date: March 6th
Break-ups are messy, ugly, painful. They have, and will continue to be, a well that produces rich character studies. When cracks and fissures form between two people, it’s because there was a solid foundation to begin with. And no matter the collateral damage, we’ll always watch the buildings crumble. Mining a personal split, filmmaker and actor, Desiree Akhavan works out some issues with Appropriate Behaviour.
She plays, Shirin, a proxy for herself; NY creative, bisexual and from a family of Iranian immigrants. She has just gone through a messy breakup with her girlfriend, Maxine, the kind that involves you finding a box and grabbing anything from your shared apartment that might be yours, even if it’s hair from the shower drain. She tries to move on, finding work teaching film production to toddlers and having dreadful attempts at rebounding.
Akhavan has made a true New York movie, made by someone who loves the city but, with that strong connection, knows exactly how to poke fun at some of its preposterousness — looking at you, folk stand-up comedian. Being a young female in NY who also guest-starred in the fourth season of Girls, there’s the obvious and admittedly lazy comparison to make, but Shirin is a more likeable, if difficult person, Baumbach at his most bumbling. She’s a little self-righteous — she’s quick to put down her brother’s fiancée’s position as a plastic surgeon before wanted to be swallowed up the ground when she’s told her specialtity is dealing with child burn victims — but mostly witty and affable.
When in full swing, Appropriate Behaviour is tremendously funny, her supporting cast fill out the world wonderfully, 30 Rock‘s Scott Adsit as a perma-stoned stay-at-home dad who constantly loses his kid a highlight. In his first encounter with Shirin and learning of her Iranian background, he goes straight to a Vice documentary he saw about the hip-hop scene there and asks whether she’s apart of it. Shirin replies, sadly, that she spends her time watching Disney cartoons with her gran. Farcically, she plays the struggle to hide her relationship with Maxine from her parents by saying they share a bed to save money, just like in Italy.
She’s fearless in Shirin’s misadventures in love; particularly when contrasting the tenderness of scenes with her and Maxine with the almost unwatchable awkwardness of a threesome with two opportunistic wine-bar flies. It’s incredibly unsexy as the camera lingers far longer than you want on faces of frustration, boredom and disinterest.
It certainly treads similar ground to those that’ve gone before her — the rise, the fall, the lessons learned, the bridges mended — but there’s life and caring for it to still fresh. As a debut, it’s all the more impressive, and Akhavan will certainly be a voice worth following in the future.