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Against the backdrop of the first Gulf War, Jasira Maroun is 13, physically well developed but naïve and unable to say no. As puberty arrives, her mother sends her from Syracuse to Houston to her curt, up-tight, Lebanese-born father. Over the next few months, Jasira must navigate her father's strict indifference, her discovery of sexual pleasure, the casual racism of a neighbor boy and her classmates, the sexual advances of the boy's father, the proffered friendship of a pregnant neighbor, and her attraction to Thomas, an African-American classmate whom her father forbids her to see. Things happen to her, but can she take responsibility and control, or is tragedy inevitable? Written by
Actress Summer Bishil turned 18 before filming started, allowing her to play the 13 year old, sexually overactive Jasira without any restrictions as to what she could do or show in the movie. See more »
Although the movie was set in 1990-91 (as the story starts before the Gulf War and concludes soon after the war ends), the microwave in the father's house looked current, the airport looked really modern, the nudie mags didn't look that old, and most of the clothes throughout the film looked wrong for the era. See more »
You're beautiful just the way you are, Jasira. Those other girls are just jealous because you're growing up faster than they are. And you're prettier than they are. Listen, don't let it get you down. Stupid names they're calling you. This year - just gimme a second
[wets the razor]
this year, your gonna shut them up. Only, probably you shouldn't tell your mom about this.
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Didacticism is alive and well and living in Hollywood
I was fortunate to view this movie in a cinema in the same weekend as I saw a stage performance of Moliere's "The Learned Ladies" and a DVD of "Memoirs of a Geisha". All three deal with the reaction of girls on the brink of womanhood who react in different ways to the pressures society has placed on them. Moliere was a favorite of Louis XIV in 1670, and his treatment of these pressures is remarkably pertinent to out own times. His play is instructive, as is "Towelhead". By drawing attention to the girls' problems, these dramas are warning us of the way society is treating young women. They are victims. Moliere uses farce and poetry, "Towelhead" uses conflict and some wry humor. The Geisha endures a life of conflict with no comic relief. All three shows produce the same message: don't let this happen to you. "Towelhead" is reputed to be autobiographical, and "Geisha" would appear to be so.
"Towelhead" is distinguished by some clever cinematography, let down perhaps by some careless editing. Nevertheless, the actors' performances are excellent, with most of the cast in roles that reveal them as childish. The drama unfolds not by having them grow up, but by having the protagonist mature and become decisive, just as did Moliere's girl did. There is an outstanding performance by Toni Collette as the pregnant neighbor who plays an important part in the youngster's maturing.
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