As the theme for September nears it’s end, curator Andrew Macdougall reviews New York based film Appropriate Behaviour and it’s refreshing look at bisexual life.
Appropriate Behaviour is a refreshing take on the struggles and life of a bisexual woman living in New York City and daughter of Iranian immigrants. A comedy film about a woman unable to come out to her strict parents in a hipster Brooklyn setting, tells a tale of what it’s like to be bisexual in a conservative family.
Directed by Desiree Akhavan, who personally identifies as bisexual, Akhavan also plays the lead role of Shirin who is a complex character, an Iranian-American, who struggles to bridge the gap of sexuality and that of her family life.
Shirin meets Maxine on the steps of a building block, they meet by chance, both headstrong and demanding in what they want, getting past the discourteous “I like dykes” comment from Shirin they form a bond. As they begin their relationship together, which is Shirin’s first girlfriend, it all goes wrong as Maxine struggles with Shirin’s inability to come out to her parents.
Both characters grow apart, a fight on Maxine’s birthday sees the relationship breakdown, with “it was probably just a phase” the parting words as Shirin moves out of the apartment. The film highlights Shirin’s bisexual struggles while not delving deeply into her sexuality, there is an emotional connection as viewers can attach themselves to the narrative.
After finishing a Masters in Journalism she finds herself teaching 5-year-old kids in a filmmaking class as she deals with the split from Maxine. Shirin engages in sexual activity, including in a threesome sexual encounter, which ends awkwardly as she finds herself more interested in the female connection of the intimacy.
Maxine struggles with the strain of Shirin’s inability to come out to her parents.
The movie moves into a gay rights meeting, where she once again confronts Maxine, to getting life coaching from a lingerie assistant in a more bizarre film scene. Somehow though, Akhavan, is able to make it all fit and connect no matter how irrecoverable and chaotic it may seem.
Described as a “sexual confused narcissist” by her brother, Shirin’s hesitation in approaching her family about her sexuality is warranted; No you’re not” her mother replies as Shirin attempts to tell her she is “a little bit gay”.
As her mother dismisses Shirin’s sexuality the film finishes with Shirin on a train with close friend Crystal, discussing the coming out process, how she will come out again in a month’s time. Here the film ends, showing Shirin sitting in a train carriage as she notices Maxine on the platform as they both wave to each other.
Shirin’s fight to find a place to fit in as bisexual leaves her often feeling as though she is not fully queer, “I’m dead inside, can you tell just be looking at me?” she asks Crsytal in the opening scenes of the film as she questions her sexuality being a phase.
Described as a “sexual confused narcissist” by her brother, Shirin’s hesitation in approaching her family about her sexuality is warranted
An inability to come out to family, Shirin finds rejection from her partner, loss of jobs and becoming homeless are all part of her bisexual story. While the film might move from place to place, shifting between lines and taking on direction which doesn’t seem to fit, this wacky, witty comedy works and engages the viewer.
The film itself is a mixture of a roncom, witty remarks and sexual discovery, a story told through the eyes of a queer identity. The fact that Desiree Akhavan is a bisexual director shouldn’t be lost on this film, its direction and storytelling through the eyes of a LGBTQ+ person is a positive take on the non-queer writers who seem unable to represent the community without negativity.
Appropriate Behaviour for all its inappropriateness, is appropriately bisexual.
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