Appropriate Behavior

Edgy debut

APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR (Desiree Akhavan). 87 minutes. Some subtitles. Rating: NNN

Where to watch: iTunes

The main character in Desiree Akhavan‘s feature debut, Appropriate Behavior, is way too unlikeable, but there’s something wonderful about a filmmaker on the brink of finding her footing.

Writer/director Akhavan stars as Shirin, who in the opening scene is breaking up with her girlfriend, Maxine (Rebecca Henderson), and spends the rest of the pic trying to recover. She semi-stalks her ex, hooks up with strangers, tries a three-way, takes up with a passive-aggressive guy – you get the picture.

Flashbacks reveal how the couple met – not cute – and the issues they consistently fought about: mostly Shirin’s refusal to come out to her Iranian immigrant parents because she considers herself bisexual. There are precious few loving moments between the two, but until the breakup the arguments seem to act as aphrodisiacs.

The essential problem with the film is the character of Shirin. She’s wholly narcissistic and consistently snide. It’s hard to stay interested in someone only interested in herself. Truculent girlfriend Maxine, ferociously played by Henderson, at least has some political passion.

But the Brooklyn setting is lovingly evoked (subways are used to great effect), Akhavan knows how to write dialogue that sounds authentic, and the whole thing winds up being pretty entertaining.

This deeply flawed debut is worth checking out. Akhavan is definitely one to watch.     

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