It takes time to warm to writer-director-star Desiree Akhavan’s wry sense of humour but once acclimatised Appropriate Behaviour is a real hoot. This debut is so good, in fact, that her little-known television series The Slope (described as story about ‘superficial, homophobic lesbians’) must now be sought out and watched. Immediately.
khavan casts herself as Shirin, a mid-twenties bisexual Iranian-American from Brooklyn who is unable to get over her recent break up with live-in girlfriend Maxine (Henderson). Shirin flits about the city, gets drunk, winds up in bed with strangers, and eventually stumbles into a job teaching filmmaking to pre-schoolers. Dotting the story with flashbacks to the romance, Shirin attempts to come to terms with her heartbreak and contemplates coming out to her parents…
khavan has written the sweet, self-deprecating, I’m-such-a-screw-up role that Greta Gerwig, Lake Bell or Aubrey Plaza could play. She uses her incessant navel-gazing to make pointed jabs at a flaky New York: the narcissism, the pretentiousness (at one point she moves into a loft apartment with a couple who have no toilet roll and it’s unclear if this is an oversight or a lifestyle choice), and parents who name their children ‘Carrington’ and ‘Groucho’. But in the middle of all this acerbic asides, a tender romance plays out; while keeping things funny ("I find your anger so incredibly sexy. I hate so many things too."), the writer-director gets to the heart of the relationship: a drug scene has them realise that they are the same stoned person.
he plaudits will talk up Akhavan’s deliberately unfussy and natural direction or her ear of dialogue and one-liners ("Next to you I look like a bus boy from Chile!" and "You’re ruining my twenties!"), but her acting is not too shabby either. One particular scene has her fall into a threesome where she digs the girl but not the guy and her loneliness while watching them together is etched on her face.
he soundtrack (Anyone for some MillionYoung? Oh go on then) is a wee belter too. Go see it.