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Towelhead

  • Film
  • 2 out of 5 stars
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Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

Let’s start with the title, a racial epithet that’s one of the subtler elements of writer-director Alan Ball’s drama about a 13-year-old Lebanese-American girl named Jasira (Bishil). (At least the film’s bland original name, Nothing Is Private, wasn’t gratuitously offensive.) Shipped off from Syracuse to live with her chauvinistic dad (Macdissi) in Houston while the First Gulf War rages on, Jasira encounters the sort of culturally ignorant caricatures you’d expect from Ball’s broad satirical swipes at suburban banality. But other than a few xenophobic insults, the film has little to do with Jasira’s ethnicity; rather, it’s an indictment of how young women are sexualized at an early age. So calling your pro-feminist critique Towelhead in such a context is not only false advertising, it’s shock value born out of desperation. And that’s still not the movie’s worst felony.

That would be the inability to find a proper tone once Jasira’s next-door neighbor (Eckhart) becomes predatory. Since the lass is both flattered and confused by the attention, it makes sense that the scenes are pitched between icky and titillating, but the lack of delicacy reduces everything to stock sordidness. Even Bishil’s emotionally naked performance gets lost amid Ball’s insistence on rubbing our faces in ugly behavior without offering a counterbalance of insight.

Written by David Fear

Cast and crew

  • Director:Alan Ball
  • Cast:
    • Summer Bishil
    • Aaron Eckhart
    • Peter Macdissi
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