How cool is it that we have two (TWO!) Iranian-American female filmmakers making major waves in indie Hollywood right now? If it wasn't amazing enough that Ana Lily Amirpour smashed stereotypes and burst the vampire genre wide open with A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night last year, this month Desiree Akhavan (soon to be seen on the upcoming season of HBO's Girls) wrote, directed and starred in the newest contribution to the hipster comedy genre (yes, I do believe this has become a thing now) titled APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR.
Part quirky romcom and part political statement, APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR speaks to the modern young woman who finds herself on the outer edges of society due to her identity. Akhavan plays Shirin, a Brooklynite struggling with responsibility. She's at that awkward stage of adulthood when she has to finally start making grown-up decisions that will impact the rest of her life (like getting a real job), when she really just wants to lie on the couch all day. She's also dealing with the fact that she's confidently bisexual, but has yet to come out to her very traditional Persian parents, who would much rather accept that their only daughter's new female roommate just shares her bed because it's cheaper than paying for a two-bedroom apartment. It's less immaturity that Shirin grapples with, and more the idea of what is expected of her -- as an adult, an American woman seemingly surrounded by white friends, and a Persian daughter. And where she's supposed to fit in.
At its core, APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR explores how one feels when everything they represent is considered wrong. But while its themes are important, they've all but fallen to the wayside by the film's third act, which becomes a far too typical hipster comedy (think Frances Ha) with an anticlimactic ending that doesn't bring any closure to Shirin's story. Does she eventually tell her parents? Does she finally get a real job? Who does she become by the end of the film?
But the film works as a conversation piece, and as a vehicle that will hopefully introduce Akhavan as a fresh voice. While the film isn't as vulnerable as I would have hoped (Shirin tends to mask her social insecurity with cheap, awkward jokes), Akhavan intriguingly scratches at the surface of a topic that I hope she continues to explore onscreen.
Rating: B- (*** out of *****)
Watch the trailer:
APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR is in theaters and on VOD January 16th.