Persian-American filmmaker Desiree Akhavan writes, directs and stars in this comedy about a young Brooklyn woman’s struggle to juggle multiple identities; a good Iranian daughter, a street wise Brooklynite and a sexually liberated bisexual twenty-something.
Written for her film studies thesis at New York University, the semi-autobiographical tale follows the awkward exploits of Shirin (Akhavan) as she recovers from the break up with her first girlfriend. The characters she meets along the way include a patronising bra fitter offering self-esteem advice (“Just because your breasts are small, it doesn’t mean they’re not legitimate”) and a bohemian couple with whom she has a disastrous sexual encounter.
Shirin’s split from Maxine (Rebecca Henderson) is messy and drawn out. The experience forces her to consider whether she should come out to her supportive yet very traditional Iranian family and whether she should come out as bisexual or gay. When she eventually plucks up the courage to tell her mother she immediately responds “No you’re not.”
A doomed date with a gay rights lawyer and a conversation with her best friend Crystal (Halley Feiffer) are particular highlights. The cringe inducing date is a hands over eyes situation from start to finish and reminiscing about her recently failed relationship she declares to Crystal “I think we were an ‘it’ couple”, as her friend repeatedly responds to the contrary Shirin stubbornly interrupts her.
Appropriate Behaviour is a unique, funny and irreverent interpretation of the New York Rom-Com. Aside from a hilariously awkward character comedy, it is also an astutely observed critique of the ways in which we confine ourselves by a prescribed set of expectations or ‘appropriate behaviour’.