Brooklyn, 2014. “Shirin” (Desiree Akhavan) is a young bisexual woman from an Iranian family at loose ends after a break-up. Despite some promise, the film has a “been here/done this” quality that makes it difficult to care. (JLH: 3/5)
Well-intentioned first feature by writer/director Desiree Akhavan throws us yet again into the angst of a 20something seeking her place in the world.
But, alas, even tho “Shirin”–the character Akhavan plays–is female (yay), and bisexual (fine), and from an Iranian family (mmm), Appropriate Behavior–as a film–still feels self-indulgent and derivative rather than self-confident and fully-formed.
The plot revolves around Shirin’s relationship with “Maxine” (Rebecca Henderson). Maxine was expelled from her own family when she came out to them as a lesbian. Now she is pressuring Shirin to come out as a lesbian too. Shirin tells Maxine that her parents aren’t ready to hear this news, but Maxine is adamant. If Shirin really loves her, she should come out, regardless of the consequences.
And so they break-up–which has severe practical consequences for Shirin beyond the obvious emotional devastation. Where will she live now that she no longer lives in Maxine’s apartment? And how will she support herself when she has no independent source of income?
Unfortunately, instead of dealing head on with the realities of this predicament, Shirin quickly finds a room in a quirky loft and then finds a job in an equally quirky school, allowing her to spend most of her time moaning and groaning to her friend “Crystal” (Halley Feiffer) about how much she misses Maxine…
And I am bored to death 🙁
Aside from a few meet-ups at colorful parties hosted by various Iranian relatives, Shirin’s parents could be Upper Middle Class parents anywhere. They know what is going on, but if Shirin won’t confront her true self, why should they? Best to keep on pretending that everyone in the family is remaining silent for the sake of the others.
Ironically, my favorite character is Shirin’s brother “Ali” (Arian Moayed), who provides some level-headed commentary from the sidelines. In a beautifully written and perfectly-edited early scene, Ali is in one room with their mother “Nasrin” (Ahn Duong) complaining about the stress of being the older child, while Shirin is in another room with their father “Mehrdad” (Hooman Majd) complaining about the stress of being the younger child.
Desiree Akhavan is a promising filmmaker, so let’s hope she gets more chances to develop her style and then articulate a unique POV.
Top Photo: Shirin” (Desiree Akhavan) in a Brooklyn bookstore with “Maxine” (Rebecca Henderson).
Bottom Photo: Shirin in a Brooklyn coffee spot with “Crystal” (Halley Feiffer).
Photo Credits: © 2014 – Gravitas Ventures
Since the narrative revolves around a lesbian couple, the obvious answer is “Yes.”
In fact, with the exception of her brother, her father, and her boss–all of whom have short scenes that basically move the plot along–most of Shirin’s time is spent in conversation with other women.
Beyond Maxine and Crystal, there are women roommates and women co-workers, as well as women in bookstores, women in clothing stores, etc–a slice of life in Brooklyn circa 2014.