Immature, self-obsessed and irreverent, Appropriate Behavior is a generation defining work. Writer/Director Desiree Akhavan subtly highlights unique problems of an American youth that finds itself torn between old and new cultures, ideologies and sexualities. At its core, Appropriate Behavior is a simple portrait of love in the modern world.
It is exceedingly difficult to draw meaningful material from the life of a twenty-something without it seeming melodramatic or superficial or uninteresting. Unless the lead character is fighting in a war or the youngest CEO of a multi-million dollar company or a superhero, their story is assumed unworthy of the silver screen. However, this transitory period of a person's life is an important time of discovery and energy. It is crucial that honest movies are made about youth. Youth is our single most underrated and underutilized resource as a nation. There is a generation gap in this country that extends to every societal issue. Homophobia, racism, classism are all characterized by a willing ignorance of youthful ideas.
The true bravery of this film is present in universal truths that cross all cultural boundaries. Simply put, Desiree Akhavan is not afraid to be ugly, and that, perhaps more than anything, is true beauty. In her own words: "I chose to star in the film because it would have been disingenuous to have hired a better looking version of me." That is the key statement to understanding this story. It's not about agreeing with the character's choices. It's about seeing that she is human and recognizing the same humanity in yourself. We've all acted immature, irrational and impulsive because of love. It's just what you do when you're broken-hearted.
So many American movies are severely over-plotted to ensure audience interest. In actuality, overly plot-driven stories can be alienating and even insulting to an audience. It is an insecure form of filmmaking. If Boyhood has taught us anything about cinema, it's that the truth of an experience lies not in amazing events, but instead in the tiny, ephemeral moments. That is where Appropriate Behavior succeeds. It doesn't depend on plot points to hold your attention. Instead, it immerses you in the little nuances of relationships. It is a refreshingly secure structure. If confidence is sexy, then this is one of the sexiest movies ever made. It's not an arrogant attitude, quite the opposite. Desiree Akhavan has the courage to be vulnerable, and that is a rare quality in entertainment.
There are so many things to point to as the breakthrough achievements of this picture. It's a huge step for second-generation immigrants. It's valuable to the bisexual and lesbian communities. It contributes to the recent renaissance of comedic female characters breaking out of ladylike expectancies. There is a great amount of freedom in art, and this film takes advantage of that. In a world where freedom of speech is constantly under attack, Desiree Akhavan employs an intelligent voice of reason. She does so not by pounding you over the head with messages of morality, but by telling an honest, relatable story. It is told with humor and keen observation, remarkably breaking barriers by simply being.
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