Similar to how an author establishes the tone of a novel in the first page or chapter, Desiree Akhavan uses the first scene in her film Appropriate Behavior to establish the movie’s uniquely dark, ironic, and comical tone. Specifically, in the beginning portions of the film, Akhavan initially sets a very dark and somber tone with a purposely trite and artistic shot of protagonist Shirin riding the subway alone, followed by montage of her and her girlfriend breaking up. This gloomy tone however is quickly reversed when Shirin tosses a box of old possessions into a dumpster but then retrieves a dildo from inside and then carries it very open down the street; at this time, the title “Appropriate Behavior” is displayed to create a comical irony between the title and the subject’s actions, namely that Shirin is carrying a dildo in broad daylight, something not typically classified as appropriate.
The film is also quite circular thanks to its non-chronological narrative, as well as how Akhavan also very effectively bookends the movie with continued or paralleling scenes. The penultimate scene continues the beginning scene in which Shirin picks up the dildo, but in this continuation, she deposits it in a trash can, ending this instance of inappropriate behavior. Then the last scene has Shirin again on a train, but this time happy and with her best friend Crystal. During this scene Shirin sees her ex-girlfriend on the subway platform and quickly waves goodbye to her, seemingly ending the relationship and providing closure to this chapter in her life of inappropriate behavior.
In what other scenes does Akhavan use irony to uphold the dark comedic tone?
How much of Shirin’s inappropriate behavior do you think was spurred by her reluctance to let go of her relationship with Maxine or just because of her pure awkwardness?