Towelhead (2007) Poster


User Reviews

Add a Review
65 ReviewsOrdered By: Helpfulness
Brilliantly Honest
Rick Reynolds19 January 2009
"Towelhead" is an incredibly honest and sincere movie. It tells its story without pretense, without agenda, and without b.s.

Looking at the IMDb reviews and ratings, it appears that not everyone enjoys this movie. If you are made uncomfortable by the honest portrayal of adolescent sexuality, racism, sexism, bad parenting, sexual assault, and sexual predation, then you will not enjoy this movie.

If you are like myself and my wife, and you feel that dealing with the life of a young woman torn between cultures and divorced parents, objectified by a society that also rejects her, and as confused and eager and scared of her own sexuality as every young teen has ever been, then you feel this is one of the best films of the year.

But not everyone is going to be comfortable with honesty. I found it to be a wonderful breath of fresh air. Others will be made uncomfortable and will then make up reasons to dislike it. I even read a review by someone who somehow thought that the villain of the story, the clear, obvious villain, was the hero.
18 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
one of 2008's best films
Roland E. Zwick8 January 2009
Even at the tender young age of 13, the strikingly beautiful Jasira seems destined to go through life igniting the passions of the men and boys around her. A product of a mixed marriage (her mother is white, her father Lebanese) and a broken home, she lives with her strict, traditionalist dad in a Texas suburb during the time of the first Gulf War. Though shy by nature, Jasira seems wise beyond her years when it comes to exploring her burgeoning sexuality. Like many girls her age, she dreams of one day becoming a famous model like the ones she sees in fashion magazines or on billboards around town. Yet, despite the sternness and rigidity of her father, Jasira winds up getting involved with both a black boy at school and the middle-aged family man who lives two doors down.

With "Towelhead," writer/director Alan Ball returns to the theme of simmering suburban eroticism that he explored so effectively in "American Beauty" and "Six Feet Under." Indeed, it's safe to say that "Towelhead" is possibly the most perceptive, frank and intelligent exploration of teenage sexuality I've ever seen on film. Somehow Ball has managed to take a subject that could easily have become exploitative and sensationalistic and turned into a moving and compassionate tale of flawed individuals who, despite the fact that they may mean well, often act in ways that cause serious harm to others. As is true of every teen, Jasira is naturally curious about her body and intrigued by that secret, forbidden world of pleasure to which only grownups seem somehow privy. The trouble is that Jasira is surrounded by adults who provide her with either weak or contradictory guidance, or who can't control their own urges long enough to think about the harm they might be inflicting on others with their actions. On a broader scale, Ball questions how modern teens can be expected to make wise decisions about sex when they are routinely bombarded with mixed messages from a culture that is both highly sexualized and highly puritanical at one and the same time. Often times, we get the sense that Jasira is using her new found sexuality - without yet fully understanding the powerful effect it is having on the males around her - to fill an emotional void in her life, a void caused by a mother and a father who are so caught up in their own lives that they have little left over for their daughter. To a somewhat lesser extent, the movie also touches on the racism that exists in not only the white culture but the nonwhite culture as well. For while Jasira is being taunted by the kids at school for her dark skin (even though many assume she is Mexican), her own father is forbidding her to date a black boy who has taken a romantic interest in her.

Ball has populated his story (based on the novel by Alicia Erian) with a rich array of complex, multi-dimensional characters, each one a unique and closely observed individual. Beyond the intriguing Jasira, there is her hot-tempered father who, in his own, perhaps clumsy, way clearly loves his daughter but who is so bound in by the traditions of his culture that he can't even begin to understand what is going on in her heart. There is the kind, pragmatic next door neighbor who keeps her eye on the girl and extends the hand of friendship when it is needed most. And, finally, there is the older man caught between what he knows is right and his compelling need to seduce a child young enough to be his own daughter. Ball makes it clear that none of these characters is a hero or a villain, that life is simply too messy and complex a business for us to be assigning such roles to individuals. Yet, he clearly acknowledges that there is such a thing as going over the line, and that adults need to understand that their own desires should never be fulfilled at the expense of others more vulnerable than themselves.

Summer Bishil is heartbreaking and utterly believable as young Jashira, while Peter Macdissi infuses both a sense of menace and a strangely offbeat humor into the role of her hardnosed, dogmatic father. Toni Collete is her usual first rate self as the older woman who takes Jasira under her wing, offering her the kind of guidance her actual parents seem either unwilling or unable to provide for her. As the neighbor who seduces Jasira, Aaron Eckhart brings a great deal of courage, subtlety and restraint to one of the trickiest roles imaginable for an actor. Eckhart is obviously secure in the conviction that the audience will be mature enough to see the humanity in his character even while feeling disgust at his actions.

In fact, that's pretty much the way it is with the entire film. There are some who will be instantly turned off by the highly sensitive nature of the subject matter. But, true artist that he is, Ball has been able to transcend the sleaze to provide us with a heartbreaking human drama that, by touching on the universal, is able to strike a chord of familiarity in the audience.

Put simply, "Towelhead" is one of the very best films of 2008.
36 out of 42 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Jaw Dropping!
yossarian10029 December 2008
This is one odd, disturbing, strange little movie that is as seductive as it is uncomfortable to watch. The ensemble cast is a standout but Summer Bishil absolutely steals this one by delivering an amazingly adult performance of an almost impossible role, and Peter Macdissi, as her father, is also excellent with a heavily nuanced complex character.

I'd also like to point out this movie has more WTF moments than anything I've seen in recent memory.

Another thing I was struck with is just how commonplace, how "normal" the events in this girl's life appear, and that is even more disturbing.

I'd like to close by saying this movie will not be enjoyed by everyone, nor will it be understood by everyone. This is a major piece of film-making and a major piece of storytelling, though, and if you don't mind extremes, definitely give this one a try.
35 out of 41 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Didacticism is alive and well and living in Hollywood
brimon2812 October 2008
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.
27 out of 32 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A "coming of age" story within a culturally diverse America
screenwriter-1414 September 2008
Alan Ball's TOWELHEAD is as dark, and biting as American BEAUTY, but with a different slant as a young girl begins to experience the reality of life growing up in the suburbs of America. The cast is superb, the young actor, Summer Bishil, is tremendous in her role, and the film and story resonate with a young girl wanting to be accepted for who she is, but instead has to face incidents which would impale another young girl.

TOWELHEAD deals with prejudice, a multicultural American society that faces Iraq, and other issues, along with the sexuality of young men and women. This film has been lambasted for the sexual themes which it addresses, but in fact is a real picture into what youth must deal with in America today. The writing is crisp, brilliant and the characters and cast bring alive the story with incredible energy. Living in Southern California, I see TOWELHEAD as an important film for an audience to see and discuss for their children and families. Once again, Alan Ball has delivered a brilliant and thought provoking, and very controversial film of substance and value.
41 out of 51 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Sundance premier under new name
Pavel-8-220 January 2008
Just left the Sundance premier. They changed the title back to Towelhead, kind of a harsh turn-off while choosing a movie, but I guess that was the name of the semi- autobiographical novel. The author was present and looks well recovered from her childhood.

I can see why many reviewers hate this movie. It's cringe-worthy to watch the sexual awakening of a pubescent teen, when her parents and other important adults are childishly self-centered, in contrast to her own childlike innocence, honesty and vulnerability. That contrast and that cringe are what make it real and relevant. An unnerving part of the story is that the protagonist is never a victim. She is too inexperienced and too unmentored to act in what an adult would consider her own best interest, at least at first. But, she never participates in anything against her will. She is never denied her freedom, at least no one who tries to restrict her has the will and persistence to succeed for long. Hers is not to suffer, then be redeemed and live happily ever after. Hers is to introduce sex into her life this way, then go on.

Regarding the mechanics of the movie, it is explicit, but not graphic. Viewers hoping for teen porn will be disappointed, body parts stay covered or concealed by camera angles.

The story engages all types of Americans around this kid's ambivalent choices, a socially liberal me-generation mom, a conservative Christian Arab Dad, right-wing white Christian neighbors, liberal social activist neighbors, a middle class black friend, and a Latina mom- figure who mistakes her of one of her own. The acting is great. As one would expect, there's lots of room for humor. Once over the cringing,if you did get over it, it was an engaging and thought-provoking movie.
87 out of 115 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An extremely hard movie to watch. Funny and sexually disturbing.
grindhouse_fan28 September 2008
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.
40 out of 50 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Breaks stereotypes while remaining mostly realistic.
dead475482 January 2009
Towelhead's themes of racism, sexual development and the horrors that lie in the dark abyss of suburbia basically come down to one thing: stereotyping. The film goes through many different lives and stories, all through the eyes of 13-year old Jasira (played with great bravery and intelligence by Summer Bishil). Through her eyes we see how everyone around her is just stereotyped immediately by the people living in this world and even by the audience. The aggressive Arab-American, the ignorant redneck pedophile, the horny black teenager, the pregnant hippie, etc. All of these typical characters are alive in this world and while they do have some of the characteristics that you would expect from the stereotypes of the character, Alan Ball does a good job of making them more diverse, complex and simply human than you would expect.

There were some things I really liked and some that I really didn't like. It all felt kind of awkward to me, but I think that helped the themes of the story in a way. Either way, Aaron Eckhart gave a really fantastic performance. He uses that boyish charm and those unimaginably handsome looks to make a horrifically despicable character borderline likable until his final scenes. One of those performances where you know that he's only going to bring horrible things to the main character's life and he makes you so uneasy when he's in a room alone with her, but you can't take your eyes off of him. A truly fascinating performance. I really think he's one of the very best actors working today. Peter Macdissi and Summer Bishil were also great, just a little less-so than Eckhart.
18 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Alan Ball makes a movie.
Justin Jones9 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
In the first 30 minutes of Alan Ball's film adaptation of Alicia Erian's novel, "Towelhead", I wasn't sure if I wanted to keep watching. The abrasiveness was getting to me. The characters were not likable. Being a film fan, I stuck it out, and I'm glad I did.

"Towelhead" is brave, honest, real, and moving - this is why I fell in love with cinema. Alan Ball masterfully directs his piece and his actors in a brave way that is rarely seen in film today. This could easily be an Oscar grab, but it's not, which is why you'll see it rated very in between. Sure, our subjects go through changes and have experiences, but all of the results are very realistic to true life.

We follow 13 year old Jasira Maroun (Summer Bishil) as she moves in with her Father (Peter Macdissi) in a Texas suburb after being caught shaving her nether regions with her Mother's boyfriend (Chris Messina). Jasira deals with her budding sexuality, her controlling and hypocritical Father, racism, and adults who act like children on her way to her own sexual and emotional awakening.

Why the first act of this film is very tough to deal with is that it doesn't pull any punches on the audience. There are devices to ease us into the content which the film presents. It is blunt, and given the subject matter and outcome of the film itself, this is a good quality for it to have. It is very brave of a man like Alan Ball, who has never directed a feature prior to this, to present his first attempt in this way.

As the film progresses, we become well aware of what is in store for us. It is a tough watch, that's for sure. Not all films are going to be an hour and a half of smooth sailing, taking your eyes off the screen for minutes at a time, coming back and not being effected. "Towelhead" is excellent story-telling, and should be viewed as full and complete. Art can be tough on it's audience, and still considered of the highest quality.

What really holds this film together is it's performances. Aaron Eckhart's brave performance as Travis Vuoso, a 36 year old Army Reserve who takes a liking to Jasira, is one of the bravest and least selfish screen performances by a well known actor is recent years. There is no payoff for Eckhart or the man he portrays on screen, and for him to take such a role and do such a great job is a promising note for his future career.

Peter Macdissi is also very good in his role, which has little pay-off for the performer. A border-line (and sometimes over that line) abusive, possibly closeted homosexual, racist, and hypocritical Father. It can be stated that he is pretty much just a douche bag, in plainest English. The acting is very fearless from all angles. Not to mention our main character, played by a girl of 18 as a 13 year old, is beautifully done despite all the criticism aimed in her direction since this films opening. She is more than convincing.

Some might tell you that they have no belief in this story of that it is not realistic. My response that is that plenty of things go down in the world to many people. Some people's coming of age experience is much different than others. If you cannot open your mind and sit through 2 hours of someone else's, you probably shouldn't be voicing your opinion on film in the first place. You have every right to, but it will be taken with a grain of salt if your mind isn't open at all times.
7 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Brutal American Beauty
M. J Arocena28 September 2008
Alan Ball steps on familiar yet virgin territory in more ways than one.An American suburb with the look and feel of a populated desert. American flags and neighboring spirits. Summer Bishil surfs uncannily the waves of her puberty. Innocence and awareness. Curiosity, excitement and fear. She has extraordinary moments as her father played by a superb Peter MacDissi marks and signs his territory with ancestral laws and American longings. A terrifying living contradiction. This time bomb of a man is the most realistic caricature I've ever seen. Played for real with frightening earnestness. There is also Aaron Eckhart who proves, once more, he's one of the most fearless actors around. His performance is as brilliant as it is uncomfortable to watch. I recommend it if you're in the mood for a couple of hours of gasps and nervous laughter.
35 out of 48 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Towelhead Is The Correct Title, Not The New Lame One: Nothing Is Private...
fwomp28 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Fear of being politically incorrect has never been a problem in Hollywood. Just look at things like RELIGULOUS and you'll see a good example of that. Hollywood also isn't afraid to show the bitter side of being human. Things like CRASH showed our prejudices, both inside government and in the home. So it comes as no surprise that these predecessors have spring-boarded such successes as this film, TOWELHEAD.

The big difference here, I guess, is that the title itself gives away some of — if not all of — the film's intent. It's also a graphic title, depicting a rather hated racial slur. But still, it stands out as a ballsy way to get a message across using one effective word. But, apparently, distributors didn't like it, so if you're looking for this film to purchase or rent, you'll have to look it up under its new, more politically appealing title, NOTHING IS PRIVATE (talk about a lame!). But I'm going to stick with Towelhead because a) I like being politically volatile, and b) the original title is appropriate for the film's machinations.

The story is about Jasira Maroun (Summer Bishil), the sexually awakening daughter of divorced parents in America. Part white on her mother's side (Maria Bello, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE) and part Lebanese on her father's (Peter Macdissi, SIX FEET UNDER), Jasira is a nearly fully developed young woman while being only 13 years old. This doesn't escape the attention of a macho, and much older, neighbor named Travis (Aaron Eckhart, THE DARK KNIGHT) who begins prowling after her even though he's married and at least 20 years her senior ...and it's illegal.

Towelhead is rife with prejudice ...and rightfully so. It shows us not just anglo prejudices against other races, but brown against black, brown against redneck whites, and black against white. It also traces the problems many nationalities have growing up in a culture far removed from their roots. This is seen in Jasira's father when he must learn how to handle his daughter who's sexual appetite he can't begin to understand, and dealing with his own needs as a man when he finds solace in the arms of an American woman while leaving Jasira to fend for herself.

Unfortunately I did have a problem with the minimal incorporation of another neighbor played by Toni Collette (LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE). She takes a keen interest in Jasira and even becomes — out of the blue — a mother figure that Jasira seems to need very badly. But this section was so rushed that it was forced onto the viewer.

I must also strike a note of caution for those who are uncomfortable with certain unseemly aspects of society; particularly those who don't like child abuse or pedophilia. This film holds back nothing (and I mean N-O-T-H-I-N-G!). From a young girl's loss of her hymen by an adult to interracial, underage, sexual experimentation Towelhead really goes the distance in showing us the darker side of a world we'd rather leave behind closed doors. But opening them can open our eyes and reveal our own misunderstandings surrounding prejudices and our neighbors next door.

A movie well worth renting and seeing ...if you can handle it.
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A surprising movie
wonder-3231 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
At the end of the day, this is a very absorbing film. As it began, I thought the dialogue to be artificial, maybe it was the delivery, not sure, but I did not think some of what was said was "natural" or true to life, let me put it that way. I soon became uncomfortable watching, the sexual abuse scene was tough to take.

I tried to think back to what it was like at that age. Adults really do shape our lives when we are young-especially when we are pubescent. And the combination of naiveté's and curiosity is dangerous in the case of Jasira. However, I found it hard to believe that later in the film, this young lady would let her neighbor "rape" her. Somehow, she was smarter than that or at least she knew enough to be frightened. Was she that brave where she was willing to experience sex with a much older man? I cannot imagine such a sheltered kid being so. In any case, it is a good film if not shocking in its own way.

I take exception to the viewer/commenter who said that the father was a hypocrite,a Muslim who drank alcohol with his girlfriend. The father was a Catholic as most Lebanese happen to be and the fact was driven home in the film more than once a number of ways.. A Sign of the Cross by the father at dinner? Daughter telling her neighbor her father was a Christian? And wasn't the Virgin statue on the man's dashboard a clue in the movie early on?
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Uncomfortable yet darkly funny
bexandbarn2 January 2009
The uncomfortable, sick and disturbing elements of this film will either make you cringe or laugh guiltily. I found the dark humor to be very funny, and it reminded me a bit of 'Happiness'. Aaron Eckhart was fantastic in this in what must surely be seen as quite a dangerous career choice. But all the actors were equally as brilliant, notably the lead girl who played Jazeera. This film is a great exploration of how parents and adults mess with their children's heads, as well as brutal and graphic portrayal of an adolescents coming to terms with her sexuality. Excellent performances, great script and an overall brilliant film.
16 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The real Lolita for our times
Chad Shiira24 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Late in "Towelhead", Jasira(Summer Bishil) is forced to stay with the next-door neighbors to escape her father, who discovers her daughter's porno magazine. While driving the girl home from school, he repeatedly hits Jasira on the upper thigh, leaving a bruise serious enough to call in social services. With lodging provided by this married couple, Jasira is safe, away from dad(Peter MacDissi), and away from the other neighbor, the pedophile(Aaron Eckhart). As Rifat's fist comes down on Jasira's leg, the viewer should be cognizant about the close proximity between the father's blows and the girl's vagina. The admonitory punches of a Lebanese man with his conservative ideas about women, in his own country, would land on its intended target. The Hines will provide a safe haven for Jasira, right? Not all men want to f*** underaged girls. Gil Hines(Matt Letscher) is the hero; after all, he's the one who kept an eye on Jasira after seeing the thirteen-year-old girl get out of Travis' car. His wife Melina(Toni Collette) is showing; as perchance has it, they're expecting a girl. But even Gil is culpable to the influence of our oversexualized culture. In regard to seeing Jasira together with her much-older neighbor, maybe it was jealousy, and not an affront to his moral turpitude, that registered on Gil's squinted eyes and corresponding forehead lines. When the expectant father happens to glance down at Jasira's hitched skirt as she gets up from the dinner table, he notices the bruise, but is that all he notices? Because Jasira is only thirteen, Melina looks only at her chronological age, when she makes the decision that her boyfriend Thomas(Eugene Jones) can stay with the girl, unchaperoned, and left to their own devices. While she naps, Thomas and Jasira have sex. Jasira likes sex. This is what distinguishes the Lebanese girl from someone like Amelia(Roxana Zal), someone like the ABC telefilm "Something about Amelia". Jasira's emotional maturity is way beyond her years. When she admits to her relationship with Travis, "Towelhead" forces the viewer to question Jasira's motivations: Was she traumatized by her neighbor's sexual advances, or does she merely out Travis as a tactic to distract her father from addressing Thomas' used condom in his hand? Following Travis' arrest, Melina comforts Jasira. In her bedroom, she brushes the girl's hair, as they talk about, among other things, the men's magazine Travis gave her. To the older woman, a magazine like Palace(modeled after Playboy) makes her feel like "crap"; but to Jasira, it makes her feel "good". While Melina comforts Jasira in hushed tones and strokes her hair reassuringly, "Towelhead" goes against the automatic presumption that her sexual relationship with the war veteran traumatized her. Is Jasira a victim of sexual abuse, or is she a lolita? Was the sex between her and Travis consensual? Even Thomas underestimates Jasira, who like Melina, handles his girlfriend like a delicate flower. When he suggests that their relationship should go in a more chaste direction, Jasira disagrees; she decides that their relationship should continue in its adult direction. She's one of Larry Clarke's "Kids".

"Towelhead" is an uncomfortable film. But it's important in showing how the mainstreaming of porn rewrites the laws of statutory rape. Theoretically, Jasira isn't ready to have sex, but "Towelhead" seems to say otherwise.
12 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A movie that will be ignored.......
Kontradiktatur30 December 2008
So that is why it needs to be spread by us that loved it. I haven't been able get out the images out of my head. It such a complex motion picture, and only Alan Ball could tackle this controversial material. It's so well acted. It's a great cast, but it is Bishil that sweeps us all away. A highly important movie, sad that it's gonna be forgotten. But in a few years time, people will say just like Gob in "Arrested Development"; "I mad a huge misstake"

In overall I recommend this movie to everyone. It speaks on so many important subjects that often gets ignored by the mass. Movies are meant to provoke you, make you feel inferior and make you think. "Towelhead" does that and a little bit more.
8 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
S.R. Dipaling21 February 2010
Jasira Mourain(a heart-draining Summer Bishil)is surrounded by what appears to be a rogues gallery of adults and peers,whether it's back in Syracuse with her unstable and fickle mom(Maria Bello)or out in Houston,Texas with her culturally conservative and somewhat selfish father(Peter Macdissi). It's in Texas that Jasira also ends up being relocated to a school full of bigots and well-intentioned but thick-headed sorts(as if being in middle school WASN'T tough enough)who make her already tenuous growing up with her father just that much more difficult. Things don't improve when she strikes an association with a neighbor family headed by a prejudiced yet overly friendly Army reservist(Aaron Eckhart,almost phoning this one in),nor when she inspires the interest(mutual,of course)with a well-intentioned and attractive black kid(Eugene JonesIII).

Writer/director Alan Ball(American Beauty,"Six Feet Under")is clearly NOT shy about broaching sensitive issues,and his attempt to illustrate the cruel,arbitrary behavior that can come from racism certainly has the sufficient amount of pop and sizzle to it,but it seems like the raw,unrelenting frankness of this story borders on leering and sleaziness,not to mention cruelty. The performances are at least heartfelt and carry a grace about them that doesn't make this TOO preachy or obvious,and the way this story is folded out(using the parameters of Fall 1990 thru March 1991,which was the build-up to start and finish of the first Gulf War)certainly draws this away from post-911 type ready-made drama. But it's timber,it's dangling story lines(the relationship with the mom is just glanced upon) and somewhat out-of-rhythm ending sort of monkey wrenches this from being the cut-above type movie it strives to be. Perhaps I'm judging this film on a knee-jerk type of response,but I think it is still very telling of the kind of product it is.

Intriguing and not without its merits,it's a curiosity of a film,but it's not going to show the viewer much mercy,neither in topic nor in emotional tone.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Don't pre-judge
rjray12 September 2008
Don't be fooled by the people commenting here on how racist, hateful, pro-Israeli, etc., this movie supposedly is. If you haven't read the book, you don't know anything about what the movie is going to be. I read the book after hearing Alicia Erian read an excerpt from it at an event in San Francisco. I look forward to the movie, and I recommend people who think it's going to promote any sort of hate or intolerance should either read the book or wait until they can talk to someone who's actually SEEN the movie, before posting silly comments about how this movie is pro-Israeli propaganda. Otherwise, your arguments begin to look like their only purpose is to just baselessly attack the film and/or the book's author.
23 out of 42 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
(7 out of 10 stars) Good questions,sharp answers,yes this was a good movie.
board-524 August 2010
Not a slasher-movie ,not an action movie,but after heard about it,I knew this will probably worth the rental,and after seen as a DVD premier,I sad this was a good time killer drama with some sharp themes.No question the main audience rather hate or love when they get the head wash every year,but those feels like they are not around these problems,they will get some entertainment value from this film.It was more than a year ago I had seen this film but the better scenes are still in my mind.Looks like sometimes directly funnier,but this will help for some of the viewers,the movie has two messages,the first is clear,before the ending scene,the second needs more skills.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An excellent movie, but hard to watch on some moments
Argemaluco25 February 2010
Despite having the looks of a "movie star", nobody could accuse actor Aaron Eckhart of only accepting easy and safe characters.Sure, his filmography includes the obligatory romantic comedies (No Reservations) and action films (The Dark Knight), but it also includes irreverent and unconventional films like Nurse Betty, Thank You for Smoking and Towelhead.However, Eckhart is not the leading actor in the last mentioned movie; that corresponds to Summer Bishil, who brings a brilliant performance in this excellent film.

Towelhead is an audacious and incisive film experience, which makes fascinating commentaries about the grey nature of the segregation and intolerance between races, sexes and ages.Every character represents different aspects from real society, and their consistent conflicts (on the small scale from their community) evoke similar situations on a bigger scale...the scale which provokes wars, ethnic persecutions and genocide.

It is ironical to think that a movie whose purpose is speaking against the hypocrisy from all kind of societies and individuals had to change its original title Towelhead (racist epithet applicable to people from the Middle East) for the more bland and innocuous Nothing is Private in order to be exhibited on some territories and festivals.I think we can also consider that fact as one more of the lessons which brings this strong but honest movie, which refuses to assign any guilt or pointing out villains in its fascinating view to contemporary world.The only complaint I have against this film is that I feel the ending should have been a bit more polished.But that is not a very important fail, and it does not avoid me from giving an enthusiastic recommendation to this brave and brilliant movie.However, that recommendation must be accompanied by a very serious warning, because Towelhead includes not necessarily graphic, but tremendously disturbing scenes, both for their intrinsic content as well as for the apparent "normality" which covers those inappropriate behaviours.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
How Can You Find Yourself If No One Sees You?
madbandit200020001 January 2010
Let's face it: Growing up is a pain in the butt. Unrealistic expectations are shot towards kids who are experience puberty and, unless there's some biological defects involved, it's mandatory for everyone. However, adults forget about it and have unhealthy feelings for kids who are enduring it.

That's the case with "Towelhead", a comedy-of-age dramedy that's unapologetically gut punching, dropping in the realms of developing sexuality and toxic bigotry without a parachute.

In 1990, during the midst of the first Gulf War, shy but lovely 13-year-old Jasira Maroun (newcomer Summer Bashil) is growing up, much to the dismay of her vain, selfish divorced mother (underrated Maria Bello of "A History of Violence"). After an inappropriate pubic hair grooming session with her mom's boyfriend, Jasira's sent to live in Texas with her strict father (Peter MacDissi of "Six Feet Under"), a NASA employee of Lebanese descent, who abhors her daughter's "development" and infantilize her. He even refuses her to get tampons, for goodness sake!

It's also no fun for her being called a "towelhead" (hence the title) in school, mistaken for being Hispanic and unhealthily pursued by a married Army reservist (Aaron Eckhart, "The Dark Knight"), yet the last part isn't so clear cut.

Jasira's benefactors differ in sex ed tactics, but equally care for her, regardless. Neighbor Melina (Emmy winner Toni Collette of "The United States of Tara") is a liberal-minded and pregnant while Thomas (tyro equal Eugene Jones III) is a horny but lonely black teen. Growing up isn't easy, but it takes a lot of courage and some friends to deal with it.

Based on the novel by Alicia Erian, "Towelhead" is a sweet but blunt and smart satire that has moments of human inanity, societal conflicts, sexual growth and abuse. An Emmy and Oscar winner, writer-director Alan Ball ("American Beauty", "Six Feet Under", "True Blood") has neatly knitted a film that's hard to watch (especially for parents with daughters), but shouldn't be ignored because the film tells that ignorance, whether racial or sexual, is pandemic to everyone and doesn't discriminate.

Bashil's in a strong "me against the world" role, being of mixed race and sexually budding. Her erotic, orgasmic dreams of being a model, while looking at a skin mag, are comical, yet they're an oasis from a world populated by adults who are silly, hypocritical and arrogant. Macdissi's one of them, and he's great at it; he can court women outside his race but refuses his daughter to see a black boy.

Probably the hardest role here belongs to Eckhart, being a handsome pervert that echoes Humbert Humbert from the novel "Lolita", but he's fascinating as he's sexually enchanted by a person who "represents" the enemy his army's locked in combat.

I wish there was more of Bello, but her egotistical matriarch role is nicely countered with Collette's as a mother-to-be. Though awkward, Jones's character shares Bashil's character's loneliness; they're ethnic minorities in a predominately white school, let alone a white suburb, and it's required they have a romance to survive.

To some, the film may be racially exploitative (the alternative title "Nothing is Private" really belongs to a spy thriller), as welll as sexually, but "Towelhead" is socially brave and honest (especially in a post Sept. 11 America, where tempers are high), and it's a shame it's the last film released by Warner Bros's now-defunct, art-house unit.

There's always a need for films with brains, guts and an earthy spirit, and "Towelhead" is one of them.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Towelhead delivers controversy with style...
Rick Swift2 November 2009
Swift shot: This movie was NOTHING that I was expecting. I rented it because of the title and because I like controversial themes - challenging the mind is never a bad thing. Brilliant acting throughout the film and incredibly disturbing subject matter! Be warned, this one is aptly labeled controversial - it isn't just a marketing stunt! Only the thick-skinned should view this one, seriously! While the title implies this movie is about racism, it is really only the base of the film and merely used to bait the viewer. While I normally detract "points" for that sort of manipulation, it was brilliantly pulled off in Towelhead. From scene one, you'll learn not to be so quick to judge the film, anymore than you should judge the characters.

With a Dickensian style to the story, a poor little blossoming outsider is kicked out of the house to go live with her megalomaniac father, who is really focused on everything else but his daughter – until his daughter disappoints him by choosing a member of the opposite race to date. Never owning up to their racism, nor hypocrisy, both parents, Rifat (Peter Macdissi) and Gail (Maria Bello) need to be dragged and quartered for failing to provide emotional support for their daughter. I guess my disgust for these characters is a credit to the actors, and I couldn't find one actor (not even some of the kids) that gave mediocre performances.

Alan Ball is rapidly becoming my favorite director, his style appeals to me in a way I can't share in writing. While he mostly writes for the small idiot box, Ball certainly knows how to get results from everyone on set, surrounding himself with talented, passionate (bonafide) artists. I think his real success must come from some stellar casting work, I don't feel like any of the roles were forced and while the subject matter could end careers, the actors always seem comfortable committing their sins for Ball – almost like he put poppers in their PEZ! (That was for you, Ck) Summer Bishil steals every scene, driving home the point that Jasira Maroun is just a little girl dealing with some incredibly mature issues. Her child-like commitment to Jasira was as imaginative as it was disturbing. Complementing her performance were Aaron Eckhart and Peter Macdissi who each took turns shaping her world-views in their own twisted ways.

Fantasy sequences serve to titillate and disturb, and fantasy sometimes falls short of the real thing – sometimes fantasy ruins reality too. I'll let you be the judge with that one. Watching this film will leave a mark on your mind, might even make you wish you had never watched it in the first place – but, again, failure to confront the uncomfortable leads to failing to understand the uncomfortable.

For my part, I learned both lessons about pre-judging films (twice this month now) based on their titles and about the dramatic impact apathy can have on a child. Towelhead has another title, but it is really quite lame and cowardly, "Nothing is Private" but they could have gone with this title, "How NOT to raise a child!" which would have been spot-on.

Little side-note, I did some quick research on Ball, apparently his sister literally died "all over" him when he was 13, on her 22nd birthday – they were in a terrible accident. So, death and loss shaped him, artistically, at a very young age. While Towelhead doesn't really focus on death, the death of innocence is carried throughout – no doubt, a testament to Ball's own loss of innocence.

My only real criticism of the film would be the pacing in some places made no sense, and sometimes the disjointed weaving of the story detracted from the pulse overall. A few of the characters bored me, but again, real life is hardly all Megan Fox running around with robots, right Action Flick Chick? I will continue to follow anything Ball touches, the guy has definitely gotten my attention for the long-haul now.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Truly disturbing movie on an Arab-American girl's coming of age story
sloobyjose25 January 2009
Plus : Excellent contribution from all actors, Took the funny route to depict the theme, Wonderful photography, Minus : Could have edited some unnecessary magazine scenes. Also felt bit lagging here and there

This movie is very strongly disturbing and make you feel the pain of a kid being abused at her early teenage. This apparently is based on real life incidents and I honestly wish that such molestation doesn't happen to any teenager anymore. I feel that if a pervert watch this movie, it should be able to change his mind and approach. (although that last sentence sounds kind of funny, I really mean it)

Kudos to the director Allan Ball, Write Alicia Erian, and cast
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Shallow characters ring false
rmmorelli3 February 2010
I saw this film at its premier at Sundance 09.

Since American Beauty is a movie that had something to say, I had hopes for Towelhead. Unfortunately, it was a disappointment. In fact, of countless movies I've seen in almost a dozen Sundance festivals, Towelhead is the only Sundance movie I've ever wanted to walk out early from.

The worst problem with Towelhead is that it so obviously originates with a collection of "provocative" concepts concerning cultural stereotypes, rather than with an organic human drama. The screenplay derives from the novel of the same name by Alicia Erian. The famous Edith Wharton quote comes to mind: I have never known a novel that was good enough to be good in spite of its being adapted to the author's political views. That observation is especially devastating for Towelhead because its political views are so stale and simplistic. If there ever was a time when Towelhead's white male villains, condescending portrayals of blacks, ironic treatments of foreign cultures, etc., were fresh, it's long past.

For a more detailed review, please look up any of the many professional reviews available online. Almost all rate this movie poorly and expose the shallow and manipulative tissue it is based on.

On the other hand, the amateur reviewers seem more easily bamboozled. As you read through the reviews in this and similar sites, you'll frequently come across superlatives: "stunning," "breathtaking," "profound," "shocking," ... It embarrasses me to read them, but it does not surprise me. Indeed, I've encountered many people who seem to regard any book or movie dealing with racial, cultural, gender, or sexual issues as deeply moving, thought provoking, full of profound insight. If you are such a person, by all means, rent Towelhead and be moved by it. On the other hand, if you set your standards higher, you can safely pass on this one.
6 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Fantastic coming of age story by Alan Ball, one of the best films of 2008
BernardoLima19 December 2008
What an amazing movie. Its still sinking in...I had a good feeling about this one but I didn't know what I was in for...Towelhead aka Nothing Is Private is Alan Ball latest film featuring Aaron Eckhart,Peter Macdissi and Summer Bishil.Although the plot is based on a novel, you can clearly see Alan Ball's influence and what he began in American Beauty he mastered here. Summer Bishil plays Jasira Maroun, a 13-year-old Arab-American girl who's going trough puberty and exploring her sexuality.Jasira is sent by her mother to Houston to live with her father Rafit Maroun, a very strict Lebanese man. While trying to adapt to her new life in the suburbs, Jasira has to deal with racist classmates and her dad's lifestyle.Meanwhile she meets one of the neighbors, an Army reservist and begins a dangerous relationship with him.The performances were all top-notch.Its amazing how in such short time so many characters were deeply explored.Summer Bishil should get an Oscar for this ,unfortunaly I know this won't happen since the academy only seems to notice the big budget Hollywoodesque films.Peter Macdissi and Aaron Eckhart were great as well.I didn't knew Peter Macdissie but he impressed for Aaron Eckhart he just gets better and better each movie.The film touches so many themes and issues...and most of them still generate great controversy these days ! Its quite an overwhelming experience.

5 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Erin Greenwood30 September 2008
With the exception of the ending, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. It flowed well and it kept my friend and I very interested. Mind, it is about a 13 year old girl going through puberty and exploring her sexuality, there is nudity and a man in the theater walked out exclaiming "this is a goddamn porno!" which is far from the truth. There is some female nudity (not of the young girl), but nothing to extreme. (it certainly does not take away from the overall effect). Anyway it is a good film, reminds you of your teenage years. It takes place in the 80's but covers a lot of the problems found in today's society. Overall I highly recommend it to someone who enjoys dramas of the bourgeois.
5 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews