Thursday, 17 December 2015

Appropriate Behaviour (2015) - Movie Review


The plot: After breaking up with her girlfriend Maxine (Rebecca Henderson), Brooklynite Shirin (Desiree Akhavan) is trying to put her life back together. As she reminisces over her life of contentment with Maxine, she tries to put herself back on the market while also trying to find work. And while all of this is going on, she keeps trying to psyche herself up to finally come out to her family.

I’ve mentioned indie-quirk before, but what this film contains is of a slightly heavier dosage than Me And Earl And The Dying Girl. There’s a brand of indie-quirk that pushes past the idea of trying to portray reality in all its idiosyncrasies and instead embodies the feeling of awkwardness that so pervades life. The most popular purveyor of this style would be Lena Dunham, particularly through her HBO show Girls. This film follows in that same vein, taking uncomfortable social graces into the realm of hyper-realistic in the way that only seems to crop up in stories about New York. I mean, joking about out-there performance art and ‘intestinal vaginas’ is one thing; it’s quite another to feature characters who legitimately do those acts. The main difference here being that not only is Shirin not a complete sociopath, nor are the people around her, she also isn’t played by a sexual predator… far as I know, at any rate. The run-on tangent-filled conversations (sounds familiar, for some reason) get more than a little bizarre, even in their occasionally weed-influenced circumstances, but I’d be lying if I said that they didn’t come across as some form of reality. Specifically, director/writer/star Desiree Akhavan’s reality and, in the context of just her everyday life, it’s a little too Wonderland to really connect with at times.

When in the context of her everyday life as it involves her sexuality, that’s when the film hits its major strides. Shirin and Maxine make an incredibly cute couple, even during their less-than-glamourous moments. Their banter and chemistry with each other results in probably the most realistic on-screen romance I’ve seen all year which, given how one scene involves discussing safe words for fantasies about tax brokers, is definitely surprising. Actually, maybe it’s because of weird little moments like that that make their relationship feel as stable as it does. As a result, the core conflict about Shirin trying to get over her break-up with Maxine hits deep emotionally because it genuinely feels like these two belong together. When dealing with Shirin as a single bisexual woman, it may delve into the promiscuity angle a little too much but offers some decent portrayals of dating-based humour. This film is home to the single most awkward threesome scene outside of porn, but the reason why it’s so awkward makes it weirdly identifiable. Then we get into her confronting her parents with the reality of who she is sexually and this is also portrayed rather realistically, only in the most dishearteningly way possible. Unfortunately, all of it ends up leading into a conclusion that feels rather empty, like Shirin was supposed to have grown stronger but we see no real evidence for why aside from it’s the end of the film.

There’s a school of comedy that specialises in being random and uncomfortable to sit through. I would normally just classify as yet another “It’s funny because it’s _______” sub-effort at humour, but I hate to admit that it actually works on occasion. When faced with something that makes no logical sense, a perfectly rational response to it is laugh. It’s the ultimate example of how laughter is just a normalised form of hysteria. I bring this up because, even though the bizarre nature of the scenes does make the more emotional moments difficult to sink in, the funny moments still hit home. Whether it’s the cringe comedy involving Shirin poking fun at her own Middle-Eastern heritage, and I specify Middle-Eastern because that’s how far its reach goes), or seeing the film classes being taught to five-year-olds and the differences between both of them, the film somehow kept me giggling throughout.

All in all, this is the kind of random indie humour I can get behind. While it can get a little too weird in places, Desiree Akhavan still delivers both emotional drama regarding her own sexuality and surprisingly good comedy based on just how strange the situations she finds herself in are. I would normally say that I recommend this to people who like Lena Dunham, but then again I don’t and even I could get into it. Regardless, it’s worth watching.

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