Screens August 7, 9MIFF 2014 digital programMore MIFF coverageFull movies coverage
Films about the personal lives of arty young Brooklynites are obvious targets for snark, but this low-key comedy from first-time writer-director Desiree Akhaven provides a fresh take on some familiar material. Akhaven herself plays the protagonist Shirin, a horny, accident-prone slacker struggling to muster the courage to come out as bisexual to her Iranian-American family; in the meantime, she gets a job teaching filmmaking to five-year-olds and pines over her politically committed ex-girlfriend (Rebecca Henderson). It’s a string of vignettes rather than a story, and not everything works: there’s a weak beginning and a general over-reliance on potshots at hipster pretensions (Shirin briefly dates a practitioner of “stand-up folk music”). But Akhavan has a distinctive physical presence – broad-shouldered and prone to slouching, she suggests at moments a female Ben Stiller – and a willingness to show herself in a range of lights that makes it impossible to reduce her to a “type”. In a role that seems at least partly autobiographical, she registers as alternately clumsy and seductive, hesitant and alarmingly assured. Sometimes the joke is on Shirin, sometimes on the rest of the world; either way, there’s something impressive and unusual about her take-it-or-leave-it self-presentation.
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