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New Release Review - Appropriate Behavior

An Iranian-American New Yorker struggles to adjust to the single life.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Desiree Akhavan

Starring: Desiree Akhavan, Rebecca Henderson, Halley Feiffer



The announcement of an all-female Ghostbusters drew much ire recently, but given the current makeup of American comedy, it's a casting decision that makes perfect sense. America just doesn't seem to be producing funny men right now. When Seth Rogen and Kevin Hart are the best you have to offer you're in a dire state. Conversely, we seem to be in something of a golden age for female American comics, with the likes of Lake Bell, Julia-Louis Dreyfuss and Kathryn Hahn headlining impressive indie comedies, many of which are also written and directed by women. The latest comedienne on the block is writer-director-star Desiree Akhavan, a Persian-American proving that a talent for wit isn't the sole domain of her Jewish counterparts.
In her feature debut, Akhavan is Shirin, a bisexual Brooklynite who finds herself single after ending a year long relationship with Maxine (Henderson); the romance ending largely due to Shirin's all too understandable reluctance to come out to her immigrant parents. The movie flits between flashbacks detailing the doomed coupling from start to finish and Shirin's failed attempts to find someone new, while trying her best not to disappoint her parents.
Appropriate Behavior has drawn comparison to last year's Obvious Child, but while both movies feature a young female protagonist traversing the Brooklyn hipster milieu, Akhavan's film has none of the off-putting smugness of the Jenny Slate vehicle. Despite her outward physical attractiveness, Akhavan convincingly peddles a brand of self-deprecating humour that instantly endears, playing up the social awkwardness of her character. There are some wonderful foot in mouth moments, like Shirin's chastising of her brother's plastic surgeon girlfriend for pandering to the whims of a superficial culture, only to be told her target actually works in reconstructive surgery for burn victims.
The movie's episodic structure resembles a binge watch of three single camera sitcom episodes, and as such there isn't quite enough substance to sustain a feature film. I can't help feel Akhavan is a talent better suited to the small screen and I wouldn't be surprised if she finds a creative outlet on a US cable network. Appropriate Behavior plays like an extended TV pilot, and I'd happily tune into a resulting series, but there's just not quite enough here to justify a cinema trip.




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