This movie has been on my Netflix list for a while and when better to bring it out that during Free for All month? Right? I won’t lie but the fact it was written and directed by a woman appealed, plus the same woman plays the central character. How very Lena Dunham/Phoebe Waller-Bridge of her.
No beating around the bush, let’s jump straight in.
Appropriate Behaviour (2014)
Shirin is struggling to become an ideal Persian daughter, politically correct bisexual and hip young Brooklynite but fails miserably in her attempt at all identities. Being without a cliché to hold onto can be a lonely experience.
Shirin (Akhavan) has just come out of a relationship with her girlfriend Maxine (Henderson). Despite her rage, she wants to win her back, against the advice of best pal, Crystal (Feiffer). You get the impression Shirin isn’t one to take other people’s advice, and dances to the beat of her own drum.
She comes up with a plan to make Maxine jealous through a series of dates, which vary in success, whilst juggling joblessness and homelessness as a result of the break up. To top this all off, Shirin has to face her wealthy Persian family who have high hopes for her career (which is non-existent despite her degree) and have no inkling about her personal life.
Things look up a little bit when Shirin moves in with some artsy housemates and scores a job making films with kids. Though the kids turn out to be younger than she expects (again, children are the worst) and she’s quite sure she’s not cut out for the task at hand.
Shirin is heartbroken and eager to bump into Maxine any chance she can get but goes on a series of dates that leave her making comparisons to her former relationship. We witness the couple in happier times (and then not) via the miracle of flashback, from the moment they meet to their furious break up. It’s quite close to the bone and an uncomfortable watch. Most of us have had that final conversation and it’s never easy.
Throughout this tale of heartache and ‘self-discovery’, Shirin must grapple with the ‘secret’ of her sexuality in the context of her traditional family and their values. Will she finally find the courage to come out as bi-sexual to her loved ones?
And when she finds out Maxine is dating her colleague, fellow teacher and hair model Tibet (Rosalie Lowe), will it give her the closure she needs to move on?
Only one way to find out, Mumblecore lovers!
This review is rather threadbare but I don’t want that to be a comment on how I felt about it. It was an enjoyable ride with lots to like. Desiree is a clever writer with a sharp eye for character detail and she’s mesmerising to watch as Shirin, not least because she has such good bangs, and accessorises like a boss.
I like the central characters in this, Crystal is the perfect ally to have around, calling bullshit on surreal situations (the bra shop/amateur psychiatrists office – probably my favourite bit) and telling it like it is. Her snarkiness is a real plus point of the friendship and I want her in my life please.
Maxine too is cool despite the fact we’re probably not supposed to like her for breaking Shirin’s heart. In a scene together, Shirin asks why Maxine’s replacing her and Maxine simply says “I’m not replacing you” and leaves. It got me right in my feels, man. She has quiet strength and I can understand why anyone would have a hard time getting over her.
The secondary characters are fun too, I enjoy the housemates, follically blessed Tibet and the (badly) tattooed rebound guy Shirin takes to an event she knows Maxine will be at.
Comparisons could and I am sure have been made with the work of Dunham and her Mumblecore buds, and I can see why. This film fits nicely into that sub genre, with its hyper real talk and uber-realism but I guess it’s lazy just to tag it that way and move on. It’s actually better than a lot of its peers to be honest with the characters being significantly less awful.
Shirin is self-absorbed as we all are when we’re young but she’s in genuine pain and turmoil, and you just want her to get out of it one day and live her best life. Will she? You know the drill.
4/5. Nice. A very strong study on personal relationships and the crushing expectations of others. I love films like this.
What did Jillian think and feel? Did she find in incredibly hard to keep up with the hipster lifestyle or is she one step away from moving in with some weird arty types? Find out here.