A blend of satirical jaundice and naked delight
Directed by Desiree Akhavan. Starring Desiree Akhavan, Rebecca Henderson, Scott Adsit, Halley Feiffer .Club, IFI, 90 min
Appropriate Behaviour is set in and about the numbingly hip environs of Park Slope, Brooklyn and it is happy to wallow in that neighbourhood’s pretentions, indulgences and first-world neuroses. The trick is that the film knows it’s annoying.
Indeed, rising polymath Desiree Akhavan achieves a near-perfect blend of satirical jaundice and naked delight in all things bohemian.
It helps that Akhavan the director can call on Akhavan the actor for some first-class stone-faced tutting and sighing.
She plays a bisexual Iranian-American named Shirin who, after breaking up with her girlfriend, gets cast adrift among the artisan cheese merchants of New York’s most fashionable borough. Her unsuccessful attempts to develop a new life – at one point taking part in an uncomfortable threesome – are intercut with earlier episodes from the relationship she is mourning.
Life is further complicated by her unwillingness to come out to her seemingly reasonable mother and father. When they ask why there is only one bed in the apartment, she mentions acquaintances who saved money that way and were thus able to afford “very expensive weddings to their boyfriends.”
Almost everybody is an outsider in this new Bohemia, but, as an Iranian, Shirin is just that tiny bit more exotic.
That extra millimetre of distance allows her endlessly fecund comic distance. Her dry reaction to the film school for pampered five-years-olds is, in itself, worth the entrance fee.
Appropriate Behaviour is not particularly good-looking or innovative, but warm laughter abounds throughout. Sometimes that will do well enough.