Towelhead

2007

Towelhead

Critics Consensus

This story of politics, race and, sexual awakening has moments that pack a punch, but overall, Towelhead never quite achieves the nuance of helmer Alan Ball's television work.

49%

TOMATOMETER

Reviews Counted: 114

57%
liked it

Audience Score

User Ratings: 4,587

TOMATOMETER

N/A
All Critics | Top Critics
Average Rating: N/A
Reviews Count: 0
Fresh: 0
Rotten: 0

AUDIENCE SCORE

57%
Average Rating: 3.3/5

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Movie Info

Six Feet Under creator and American Beauty screenwriter Alan Ball makes his feature directorial debut with this screen adaptation of author Alicia Erian's controversial novel Towelhead. Jasira (Summer Bishil) is a 13-year-old Arab-American who's contending with the pains of adolescence when her life takes a sudden and unexpected turn. Sent to live with her stern Lebanese father, Rifat (Peter Macdissi), by her self-absorbed mother (Maria Bello), Jasira finds herself struggling to adjust to life in the suburbs while contending with racism and hypocrisy at every turn. Rifat lives in a modest, suburban Houston home next to racist reservist Mr. Vuoso (Aaron Eckhart) and meddling expectant mother Melina (Toni Collette). Adjusting to life in the suburbs isn't easy for young Jasira, though she tries her hardest to adapt to the unfamiliar environment by striking up casual conversations with her curious new neighbors. In the process, Jasira finds herself increasingly attracted to hormone-driven African-American teen Thomas (Eugene Jones). When Rifat finds out that his daughter's new boyfriend is black, he vehemently condemns the relationship. As America launches its initial invasion of Iraq, Jasira finds herself caught up in a potentially explosive situation that is only compounded by her raging hormones and the snooping of her pregnant, busybody neighbor. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for Towelhead

All Critics (114) | Top Critics (39)

As a director [Ball] amplifies the flaws in his own writing; his supporting characters are too broadly pitched to take seriously, and he tends to smack you in the face with the point of every scene.

Dec 17, 2008 | Full Review…

There is hardly a scene that does not produce exquisite discomfort and a strong desire to be somewhere else.

Dec 11, 2008 | Full Review…

It wasn't enjoyable at any level.

Nov 5, 2008 | Full Review…

This movie will challenge you on a number of levels, including some beliefs you'd never thought you'd question.

Nov 5, 2008

It is certainly possible to make a transgressive movie about children in sexual jeopardy, and to do so in ways that realistically and intelligently depict the abuse while not revelling in it.

Oct 24, 2008 | Rating: 1.5/4 | Full Review…

It's impossible to look away.

Oct 18, 2008 | Rating: 3/4

Audience Reviews for Towelhead

A young Arab-American girl lives with her insensitive, racist father and grows to sexual awakening after she's raped by a neighbor. This is the feel-good movie of the year if your idea of a great date movie is Bastard out of Carolina. At every plot turn, director and co-writer Alan Ball's film gets more and more disturbing. It packs in themes of sexual abuse and growing sexual maturity with themes of racism and parenthood. And while Toni Collette's character is supposed to be the liberal moral center of the film, most of the characters are so remarkably distasteful that no matter how hard Ball tries to make us see them as real, flawed people, the film comes off as disturbing for disturbing's sake. I suppose the film tries to present the American Dream as a flawed notion tainted by racism, leaving children as its most vulnerable victims, but instead the film merely amounts to a collection of atrocities. The performances are all good. I haven't seen Aaron Eckhart play not-Aaron-Eckhart until this film, and Summer Bishil gives a wise-beyond-her-years portrayal of Jasira, the victim of the film's worst events. Overall, this is a great film if you want to hate everything for a while.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

½

Prolific screenwriter Alan Ball ("American Beauty," "Six Feet Under," "True Blood") has only tried his hand at direction a few times. "Towelhead," which he also wrote, was his first and (so far) last attempt at directing a feature film. Based on the mediocre results, I don't think he'll be directing any more films. He should stick to writing, especially television writing. That's where his talent lies. "Towelhead" has some very interesting subject matter and has many very courageous aspects. It tells the story of a 13-year-old suburban girl of mixed Lebanese and white American heritage coming to terms with many things, including the break-up of her parents, her suddenly surging sexual desire, and anti-Middle Eastern prejudice. Initially, I thought the film was going to be a send-up of the way semi-educated Americans perceive Middle Easterners. There's certainly plenty of that. But the center of the film is the girl's emerging sexuality. A major sequence depicts her learning to give herself orgasms, for example. We also see her exploring pornography and learning to flirt with both boys and men. What's perhaps most interesting is how the adults around her react. This is very interesting subject matter. The original novel was written by an American woman of Middle Eastern descent (Alicia Erian), and it was intended not for titillation but for serious artistic exploration of the sexual side of life and the difficulties girls face in exploring their sexualities. Alan Ball, in adapting the screenplay, takes the subject matter seriously as well. The problem is that the direction is horrendously flat and bland. Its style is also relentlessly television-like. It is obvious that Ball spent the 10 years leading up to the project completely immersed in television. After about an hour, I could barely watch it any longer. The editing is also so bad that the film ends up repeating itself over and over. The screenwriting also often seems unsure of what it wants to say or even explore. It's often also just flat-out boring. Bottom line: great subject matter, weak film adaptation.

William Dunmyer
William Dunmyer

Super Reviewer

Very dark for a comedy,(at least I assume it was intended to be a comedy). Kind of in some ways like a Todd Solondz film. Good but I think tied up a little too easily at the ends and the actual ending I didn't like too much and couldn't see why they chose to end the film there.(Maybe it was meant to be hopeful, for me, I just found it off putting - not my favourite scene in any movie. LOL). The young girl who plays Jasira is very good as were the rest of the cast.

Nicki Marie
Nicki Marie

Super Reviewer

½

How Can You Find Yourself if No One Can See You? Plot: A young Arab-American girl struggles with her sexual obsession, a bigoted Army reservist and her strict father during the Gulf War. I got really, really, but I mean, really lucky to catch this at the Deauville American Film Festival. Can you imagine it? I flew all over to France to see Alan Ball's new movie. Well, I did it. Anyway, Nothing is Private (or Towelhead, as it is called now) is the new film written for the screen, produced and directed by Alan Ball and based upon the novel Towelhead by Alicia Erian. Some people say this movie is a porno and that is sick. But, I can, proudly, compare it with "American Beauty" (also one of my favourite movies, also). You can call me whatever you want and say that I'm nuts, but that's my point of view. The film is set on the year 1991 on the Gulf War. When I first read the novel I thought: Well, this doesn't looks like a book that no one will ever adapt to the cinema. But, when I saw the film I thought: Oh, my God! What a great adaptation of the book. And, besides, I really loved American Beauty. And it has beautiful and hauntingly dark screenplay, intelligent direction and superb performances. I mean, Summer Bishil's performance is one of the most unforgettable ones of the last decade. Some may find it offencive, but you have to have an open mind to watch this. The most sexually explicit and disturbing movie I've ever seen since Stanley Kubrick's 'Eyes Wide Shut'. I correct; since Bernardo Bertolucci's 'The Dreamers'. When you first watch this you feel like gut-punched. But, if you can get over the whole movie, and you have an open mind, you'll enjoy and love it. This is a true masterpiece. I believe that with the direction, with the screenplay and with the performances, this will get more than one Academy Award. Verdict: One of the most daring, talking on a mature sexual way, movies of the last 50 years. Stunningly satirical and darkly and shockingly disturbing. A sexist teenage satire on the style of 'Juno' and 'Ghost World'. A superb drama. Simply, a Great Movie. Quite disturbing, not recommended to people that doesn't have an open criterion. Nothing Is Private. Warner Independent Pictures. 2008. 116 min. UK: No Certificate. US: R. Written for the screen and directed by Alan Ball. Based upon the novel Towelhead by Alicia Erian. Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Peter Macdissi, Summer Bishil, Maria Bello and Toni Collette.

Cassandra Maples
Cassandra Maples

Super Reviewer

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