Appropriate Behavior

Appropriate Behavior ★★★½

so this isn't a *review* so much as it is the intro that i wrote for an interview with the film's writer / director / star but whatever i'm lazy it's my cross to bear:

“Sundance movie” has become something of a dubious distinction over the last 15 years or so, the label suggesting a precious brand of rough around the edges indie filmmaking that labors to soften even the most sensitive experiences into sentimental claptrap. Desiree Akhavan’s debut feature “Appropriate Behavior” is the kind of movie that helps restore “Sundance movie” to its proper definition. It’s the kind of movie that Sundance needs because it’s the kind of movie that needs Sundance.

“Appropriate Behavior” is sort of like “Annie Hall” if Woody Allen were a bisexual Persian girl living in Park Slope. An organic extension of Akhavan’s popular web series “The Slope“, the film chronicles the various misadventures of a vaguely employed Brooklynite named Shirin (Akhavan, unflinchingly funny in the role she was born to play) as she tries to figure herself out in the aftermath of her first lesbian relationship. Closeted to her strict Iranian parents, one foot in their immigrant culture and another in a bizarro episode of “Girls” where there’s less narcissism and more races, Shirin has no idea what box she belongs to, struggling with how hard it can be when you don’t recognize yourself in the world around you.

In a time when most films without movie stars aren’t even seriously considered for Sundance, “Appropriate Behavior” finds Akhavan fronting a cast whose biggest names are Halley Feiffer, that bald guy from “30 Rock” (Scott Adsit, he’s great), and your ex’s best friend (always a scene-stealer). But here’s the thing about “Appropriate Behavior” – it’s really good. Unfortunately, given the glut of seemingly similar movies that are made possible by cheap digital cameras, and despite Akhavan’s fan base, its immediate appeal and vitally fresh perspective don’t guarantee it the attention it deserves. But Sundance does.

That movie where Kristen Stewart plays a Guantanamo Bay prison guard is going to be seen no matter what, but “Appropriate Behavior” needs to be rescued from oblivion. It’s the kind of movie that’s completely transformed by the festival. Last year, Akhavan wrote an IFP post in which she expressed concern that the film might “end up premiering at the Hoboken Film Festival for Ambiguously Ethnic Women & The Gluten Intolerant”, but I’m glad things didn’t quite work out that way. And now, whether or not “Appropriate Behavior” is a Sundance Movie, it’s definitely a movie that’s playing at Sundance, and that’s really all that matters.

READ MY INTERVIEW WITH DESIREE ON FILM.COM:

www.film.com/movies/sundance-interview-desiree-akhavan-appropriate-behavior