For Reel

Appropriate Behavior (2014)
July 10, 2015, 3:55 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Desiree Akhavan
3.5 Stars
Appropriate BehaviorThe feature debut of Desiree Akhavan closes with a smile on a New York City subway, a moment that says almost nothing and yet plays as a breakthrough. It’s a nice, small gesture that distinguishes Appropriate Behavior from like-minded films about meandering twenty-something urbanites. Akhavan plays Shirin, a bisexual Iranian-American who is reeling from a breakup. The film cuts between flashbacks of the relationship at its peak (her girlfriend is played by an amusingly sardonic Rebecca Henderson) and of Shirin’s struggle to recalibrate herself in the city in the immediate aftermath. Annie Hall is a good point of reference, however the film has mostly garnered comparisons to Girls–an inevitability, even if the commonalities are mostly superficial. As a whole, it doesn’t quite feel like a complete thought, but in individual moments Akhavan reaches some kind of greatness. A three way sexual encounter is a particular highlight, where Akhavan’s beautifully expressive face initially gets across the sense of excitement that comes with a new experience before revealing a detached, awkward sadness. Late in the film, there is a screening of a film that Shirin has completed with her film class of five-year-olds. What could have been played as a small victory is given a nice twist–Shirin knows almost immediately that she doesn’t know her audience. It’s an absurd, but wholly relatable moment of an utter failure of communication.

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