two women sit next to each other in a bookshop
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Appropriate Behavior, or: I’ve Been a Bad Small Business Owner

Christa’s pick this week as we continue to Blog Free or Die Hard!  As a bonus, I was able to stream through library platforms and thus feel like an ambassador for library services/avoid paying for things.

The Film:

Appropriate Behavior

The Premise:

A young Persian American woman deals with the aftermath of a breakup and loss of her job while keeping that she’s bisexual a secret from her family.

The Uncondensed Version:

Shirin is having a pretty rough time.  Having just broken up with her girlfriend Maxine, she has to find a new apartment in Brooklyn on short notice, get a job, and keep her bisexuality hidden from her Persian family.

a woman stands in a dimly lit doorway wearing a t-shirt that reads "A century of women on top: Smith College centennial: 1875-1975"
This is actually a still from much later in the film, but I needed to make sure that shirt appeared somewhere in this post.

Luckily, her bff Crystal is there for her, putting up with her nonsense, listening, and calling out some of Shirin’s delusions, like the claim that she and Maxine were an “it” couple.  It’s through Crystal’s bff magic that Shirin finds one of the most hipster-y new jobs ever as a film teacher for 5-year-olds.  Pete from 30 Rock has a small role as her new boss!

Shirin seems to have a good relationship with her family, but she can’t help resenting the pressure they put on her to achieve more, and of course covering up her sexuality creates a lot of tension (she even tries to explain away the bed she shared with Maxine using Beaches).  Making matters worse, her brother seems desperate to fill the role of perfect Iranian firstborn as a doctor engaged to another seemingly perfect doctor.

a middle-aged man and woman look off-camera as a younger woman looks at them in concern
Right, that classic Beaches excuse…

For most of the film, we alternate between flashbacks of the relationship and its dissolution versus Shirin’s attempts to get over it in the present.  All of this is done with a great deal of dry, witty humor, self-absorption, and a few moments of real emotional depth.  One of my favorite moments is Shirin and Maxine fighting over who should keep the strap-on penis.  But then again, their roleplay in happier times where Maxine pretends to be a tax auditor is great too (and gives us the, ahem, sexy[?] line “I didn’t keep any of my receipts…I’ve been a bad small business owner”).

As Shirin reflects on her failed relationship, she thinks about their good times.  The two met at a party, where Shirin was a bit on the tipsy side and spoke very bluntly about her interest in Maxine.  Maxine is very smart and quite hipster-y, into LOTR but turning up her nose at Sex & the City.  But that’s not the problem with their relationship—Maxine resents all of the lies to Shirin’s parents, whereas Shirin feels judged by Maxine for not being out to her parents.

a woman in a party hat accepts a plastic bottle from a woman wearing glasses
True love = sharing clear liquor from a water bottle.

After the break-up, Shirin tries online dating, meets a woman at an LGBT rights discussion club, dates a series of hipster dudes, and has a threesome with a couple (both of whom have their own latex outfit)—all failed attempts to forget Maxine.

In her family and romantic relationships, career, and personal growth, Shirin seems to be stalled.  Will she learn from her past and those around her or continue to wallow?

The Rating:

4.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

The dialogue and the characters are brilliantly developed in this one.  Impressively, Desiree Akhavan wrote, directed, and starred in this film.  I absolutely adore her character, even though she’s painfully selfish, horrible at decisions, and lacking self-awareness (or at least honesty with herself).  She’s very witty and frequently uses sarcasm to cut others down when she’s feeling insecure.  IDK if I’m saying this because I was just watching Parks and Rec, but I’d say she’s got a bit of an April Ludgate vibe.

Did I want a bit more structure and positive signs of change for Shirin?  Initially, yes.  But I really grew to appreciate this film as both a realistic study of relationships with family, romantic partners, and the self, as well as a story about healing and how difficult it is to make necessary changes.  The script asks as many questions as it answers, offering hope without complete satisfaction or resolution.  It allows Shirin to grow without becoming a completely new character with a sudden sunny disposition (oops, spoiler I guess).

I feel I’ve underrepresented how great the dialogue is in this post and I haven’t made a list in forfuckingever, so in no particular order, 5 brilliant pieces of Shirin’s dialogue from this film:

  1. “I’m dead inside. Can you tell just by looking at me?”
  2. “I’m going to lie here and try to forget how it felt to be loved. Could you turn off the light?”
  3. “I’m looking for the grown-up underwear of a woman in charge of her sexuality and not afraid of change.”
  4. “What happened to you at Wesleyan to make you this way?”
  5. “You have the sex appeal of a ferret.”

Did Christa settle down and make up Beaches excuses with this one or slowly grow to hate everything she loved about it?  Read her review here to find out!