Cynical twentysomething Brooklynites falling apart aren’t exactly in want of depictions on film and television, but “Appropriate Behavior” distinguishes itself from its contemporaries. For one, writer/director/star Desiree Akhavan is an Iranian-American, and her character, Shirin, is a bisexual woman who won’t tell her family about her orientation, which frustrates her now ex-girlfriend, Maxine. The film traces her journey on a “series of pansexual escapades” while she keeps looking back on her failed relationship. Akhavan has earned comparisons to both Lena Dunham (she’s even appearing in the new season of “Girls”) and Woody Allen (the post-relationship structure is clearly modeled after “Annie Hall”), but with her first feature she proves herself an uncommonly perceptive artist, recognizing that when two people are attracted to mutual cynicism that it probably won’t end well.
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Kate Erbland, The Dissolve
Akhavan also cleverly skewers so much of what makes Brooklyn-set indies the subject of derision, but she does it with grace and humor, not with potshots or exaggerated gags. “Appropriate Behavior” is very funny, even while it’s also being real and heartfelt. It’s a raw story with refined production values, and Akhavan is so open and true in the lead role that what could be an overly insular story instead feels relatable and amusing. Shirin is a bit of a trainwreck who consistently opts for the worst possible path, but Akhavan’s doe-eyed and deadpan delivery are charming and engaging. Read more.
Eric Kohn, Indiewire
Despite its protagonist’s rapid-fire cynicism, the movie is never consumed by pessimism. As it stretches back to Shirin’s initial courtship with Maxine, Akhavan smartly reinforces the nature of their bond: The older, confident Maxine escapes the anxieties of growing older through Shirin’s blind idealism, while Shirin identifies Maxine’s ire as a form of fashionable snark that the younger woman admires. During their initial flirtation, Shirin gushes, “I hate so many things, too!” The exchange initially reads as heartwarming but in retrospect also points to their eventual discord. Read more.
Jesse Hassenger, The A.V. Club
Stephen Saito, The Moveable Fest
Akhavan is clearly a fan of constructing big comic moments, but it’s her keen observational eye and her self-awareness of who she is as a performer that tend to produce the most gutteral laughs. Read more.
Katie Walsh, The Playlist
“Appropriate Behavior” has a light and ironic outlook on the things that make Brooklyn life what it is, be it silly or ridiculous: from dating, to casual sex, to roommates, jobs, and of course, OkCupid. These are all balanced by the very real issues of culture, identity, and sexuality, and the two work so well together due to the genuine honesty that Akhavan brings to the material. In juggling so many different identity markers, and in attempting to follow or ignore all of her urges, Shirin finds that the best thing—the only thing—to be is yourself, flaws and all. Read more.