Maybe there is such a thing as the rebirth of the New York Film Wave, after all, though we’re not sure what to call it yet. A series of films and narratives all having a young woman at their centre, she being caught up between a world economically shattered and the liberties of the third-wave feminism, living with the sense that, certainly, there must be something wrong with her, as everyone else seems to be doing great. Maybe we owe it to the loudness of Lena Dunham, who made us notice this new trend in the first place. Anyway, how nice is it to have things like Frances Ha and now, Desiree Akhavan’s Appropriate Behaviour. They’re far from being perfect films, but no one can deny how refreshing they feel. And if Baumbach’s film breathes the French Nouvelle Vague into the American city, Akhavan’s follows Woody Allen’s footsteps on what seems to be the love child of Manhattan and Annie Hall, only its protagonist being (slightly) less paranoid, not an intellectual – or hipster – and way more attractive (sorry Woody!)
Shirin (Desiree Akhavan) is a Persian bisexual who is trying to deal with the end of her relationship with butch Maxine (Rebecca Henderson), while surviving in hipster Brooklyn and giving filmmaking classes to 5 year olds. She feels dead inside; she looks for love both with boys and girls, with no luck; her oh-so-perfect doctor brother is about to marry and her Iranian parents keep asking her when will she meet a nice boy; to sum it up, things could be a lot better. Can she get Maxine back? Is that the solution her problems?
It is not usual to see films about a bisexual protagonist, let alone a second-generation Persian female. But that’s not what the film is about, after all, and I believe there lies its ultimate strength. Appropriate Behaviour is a film about relationships, expectations and loneliness in a big city. So what if Shirin is “a little bit gay” and Iranian; she’s still a normal person, allowed to have tantrums, be occasionally self-centered and do wrong choices. She cringes at the thought of people being with her because she’s exotic, and she gets furious when accused by lesbians of “going through a phase”. Desiree Akhavan’s writing and acting are easily relatable to her generation because, no matter your sexual orientation or background, she’s playing it from the heart, with no second thoughts or self-consciousness. We were promised the world and fed happily-ever-after stories, and look at us now, we end up in awkward threesomes in fancy Brooklyn lofts. And because we are sick of fake happy endings, the film offers no true redemption. Life goes on – learn how to deal with it, punk.
With great performances (and please let us have more Rebecca Henderson soon), a sober yet smart style of filming and a saturation of colours, this is the romantic comedy that the 21st century deserves. Do not miss it.
Appropriate Behaviour is now available at We Are Colony, together with many exclusive behind the scenes footage and extra film material – https://www.wearecolony.com/appropriate-behaviour/