Watch: Appropriate Behaviour

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Poor Desiree Akhaven, the writer, director and star of Appropriate Behaviour, has been called everything from the 'New Lena Dunham' to the 'Iranian Lena Dunham' via the super imaginative 'Bisexual Lena Dunham'. The comparisons must be super annoying and stem from an industry that clearly doesn't how to handle seeing work from two young women that happen to be set in the same city and are both a bit funny. That's just crazy, right?!

Like Dunham's 'Girls', there is a hipster New York lifestyle for a young woman, in this case Persian American Shirin bisexual (Akhaven), that often involves shit sex and shit jobs, but Appropriate Behaviour actually has a lot to say from perspectives Dunham never even touches.

Touted everywhere as a comedy, I found I enjoyed the film a lot more when I stopped expecting it to be funny. Sure there are funny moments, such as an awkward date and excruciating threesome scene, but often the comedy felt a little forced. Where this film really succeeds is in it's depiction of a flawed yet realistic bisexual character and of a mixed race relationship and the challenges that can bring. Akhaven brings an authenticity to the story of a second generation Iranian in America (being one herself) and the difficulties of 'coming out' to her family, the navigation of how a relationship kept a secret can work or not work as the case may be - the film starts with the break-up of Shirin and girlfriend Maxine (Rebecca Henderson) but there are frequent flashbacks telling the relationship from first meeting to the aftermath. There are some astute comments on queer life; Maxine telling Shirin the only part of gay culture she is comfortable with are drag queens, Maxine kissing a man and comparing it to kissing a baby.

A few scenes and characters missed the mark (the strap-on being thrown in the rubbish and then carried down the street was laying it on a little thickly), but overall Akhaven makes a strong debut and brings gay culture into the mainstream without subscribing to the male gaze.

Adding on to my rant in my last post, it was interesting to see the Soho Curzon almost full at this midweek screening. Appropriate Behaviour has had a huge push, especially for an Indie; tube posters, articles and reviews in mainstream female focused media like Stylist and Glamour Magazine. It makes a difference if people know about the film British film industry!

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