Appropriate Behavior Review

I am a big fan of indie movies. In fact, my entire Netflix queue is filled with movies from the ‘Independent Movie’ section. When I found out that we were looking for someone to review Girls’ star Desiree Akhavan’s film Appropriate Behavior, I jumped at the chance.
The movie begins with Akhavan’s character, Shirin, moving out of her shared apartment with her now ex-girlfriend, Maxine, played by Rebecca Henderson. The scene and setting appear normal until the audience sees the gift that Shirin bought for Maxine that Sharin refuses to throw away, which just happens to be a strap-on sex toy. Shortly thereafter, we meet Crystal, played by Halley Feiffer. Crystal is Shirin’s best friend and is happy that Shirin and Maxine broke up. Crystal tries her best to discourage Shirin from trying to get back together with Maxine, but her pleas don’t work, and after Shirin moves into an apartment in a rougher neighborhood, she heads to her old co-op job that she and Maxine worked at together and tries to seduce her boss into giving her the job back.
Shirin’s plan doesn’t work, and she finds herself back at square one: jobless, single, and at a dinner thrown by her strict Persian parents who have no idea that she and Maxine broke up. This is because  they have no idea that Shirin is bisexual. Crystal gets Shirin an interview with Ken, who works with Crystal. Ken played by Scott Adsit, offers Shirin a job as a film teacher to whom she believes are teenage students. She finds out quickly that her assumptions were wrong as she goes in to teach a group of elementary students.
Shirin signs up on a dating website and meets a man with whom she goes on a date. This is  before bringing him back to her apartment to have sex with him. The film makes it very clear  early on that Shirin uses sex as a placeholder for love and intimacy. Shirin treats sex like it is the  only way to show affection and intimacy. While  sleeping with the dating website guy,  she has a flashback to a time when she had intercourse with Maxine as they admit for the first time that they are falling in love with each other.
In fact, any sort of sexual encounter that Shirin has in the film triggers a flashback to a moment in time with Maxine. Throughout the film, the audience is treated to snapshots of Shirin and Maxine’s relationships as Shirin tries to navigate living without Maxine and embracing who she is  as a single person. A particular moment of their relationship that was poignant, was when Shirin brought Maxine to her family’s “Persian New Year’s Party” and didn’t tell them that she was in a relationship with Maxine, which launched the first of many fights about Shirin being afraid to tell her parents.
There is a new trend in indie films where the storylines are no longer neatly wrapped up by the end. The new indie film endings are very open-ended. Appropriate Behavior’s ending falls on that same line; however, the film truly works when it showcases Shirin in all of her misfortune and longing for intimacy. Desiree Akhavan takes a character that could have been bland and frustrating and made her a full, three-dimensional, and loveable character. You’ll laugh, cry, and shake your head at Shirin, but you’ll root for her the entire time, and those are the characters worth seeing on screen.  
For more information, visit appropriatebehaviormovie.com.

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Appropriate Behavior Review: Photograph courtesy of Appropriate Behavior

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