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"Towelhead"

Directed by Alan Ball.
Written by Alan Ball.  Based on the book by Alicia Erian.
Starring Summer Bishil, Peter Macdissi, Aaron Eckhart and Toni Collette.
Release Year:  2008

Review Date:  10/9/08

Folks--

As I was watching the new drama "Towelhead" at the local indie house, I was constantly reminded of my experience watching the movie "Thirteen" back in 2003.  This is not only because the heroine of "Towelhead" is a 13-year-old Lebanese girl, but because "Towelhead" is essentially only about extremes, be it sexual, racist, ridiculously inflammatory commentary about Texas, or people just yelling for no reason.  It's like 100 minutes of just money shots, and that becomes tiring in the end.

Alan Ball, the "Six Feet Under" guy (he also wrote "American Beauty"), wrote and directed this film, based on a book by someone named Alicia Erian.  The movie follows 13-year-old Arab-American Jasira Maroun (Summer Bishil) as she tries to get by living with her evil father (Peter Macdissi) in Texas near the end of the Gulf War.  There's problems at school, where everyone's got a nickname for her; there's problems at home, where her father psychologically (and physically) beats on her throughout the film; there's problems in the neighborhood, where nearby neighbor Travis Vuoso (Aaron Eckhart) enjoys porn magazines and having sex with teenage girls...

!!!

The list goes on, mainly to include the worst in people as illustrated by the film.  This is funny at times--of course Dad is going to overreact to everything, or there is only one black character, or that apparently 92% of all Texas high school kids want to call Arab-American kids "sand niggers."  Personally, I enjoy some subtlety mixed in with my hyperbole, but the filmmakers behind "Towelhead" could give a shit about that.  There are many highs--I thought that Bishil was excellent, and certainly she is given plenty to do, between sex with other kids, masturbation with other kids, sex with other adults, drinking, fighting, bleeding (that first period is always tricky!), partial nude scenes, the whole lot.  The film gets lots of yelling out of other name players, like Maria Bello as Jasira's mom, Eckhart, Macdissi, even bit players.

If you can sort through all of this, I think that the core story is still interesting, it's just a bit overdone.  Arab-Americans have certainly had plenty of native-born American stupidity to deal with over the last 20 years (so I have heard), and "Towelhead" occasionally hits it right on the head with some of this commentary.  Even though it began to tire me out by the end (the ridiculous dinner at "the good neighbor" house next door nearly had me running for the exits), "Towelhead" is, if nothing else, engaging and is as far from boring as possible!

Rating:  Matinee

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09