What would Woody Allen make of today's average New York neurotic, you wonder while watching Appropriate Behaviour. Its protagonist, Shirin, is cut from the same charmingly useless cloth as Greta Gerwig's titular protagonist in Frances Ha (2012), sighing away at how hard it is living in happening Brooklyn and floating in and out of hip cafés and Mickey Mouse jobs. At least Allen's Manhattanites had more lofty consuming passions than just wallowing in underachievement.
As well as writing and directing, Desiree Akhavan plays Shirin, a bisexual Persian American trying to move on following a break-up with live-in partner Maxine (Rebecca Henderson). At the same time, she's mulling over the prospect of coming out to her parents, who while not stiflingly traditional need to be gently introduced to the idea that she is not going to provide grandchildren and a son-in-law any time soon.
Shirin is all thumbs at the game of life. She flits from mortifying run-in to cringe-worthy encounter, and is stymied at every turn by the Brooklynite's fear of seeming uncool or politically incorrect. And yet, her character is a well-crafted thing, exactly the kind of flaky twenty-something who seems to be everywhere these days, but with a cultural background that both frustrates her and helps her stand out.
The comic tones of Akhavan's script rhyme with that of the HBO series Girls, unafraid to utterly demystify the fairer sex and reconstruct them as crass-humoured buffoons. But between all the guffaws and facepalms, a lingering feeling does pervade that Appropriate Behaviour is really a bit throw-away, another whimsical 90-minute jog around a privileged soul who treads a fine line between endearing and infuriating. Meh.
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Drama. Starring Jeremy Renner, Rosemarie DeWitt, Oliver Platt, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Michael Sheen, Michael Kenneth Williams, Andy Garcia, Barry Pepper, Ray Liotta. Directed by Michael Cuesta. Cert 15A