Towelhead Alan Ball is the kind of artist who favors dialogue so darkly clever and terse you can just about breathe in the dead air that… Towelhead Alan Ball is the kind of artist who favors dialogue so darkly clever and terse you can just about breathe in the dead air that… 2008-09-12 R PT116M Drama Aaron Eckhart Summer Bishil Toni Collette Warner Independent Pictures
Movie Review

Towelhead (2008)

MPAA Rating: R
Towelhead | ARAB AMERICAN BEAUTY Summer Bishil and Maria Bello
ARAB AMERICAN BEAUTY Summer Bishil and Maria Bello
EW's GRADE
B-

Details Limited Release: Sep 12, 2008; Rated: R; Length: 116 Minutes; Genre: Drama; With: Aaron Eckhart and Summer Bishil; Distributor: Warner Independent Pictures

Alan Ball is the kind of artist who favors dialogue so darkly clever and terse you can just about breathe in the dead air that surrounds each line. Having written the screenplay for American Beauty and created HBO's Six Feet Under and True Blood, Ball has now written and directed Towelhead, based on a 2005 novel by Alicia Erian. The movie tries to put us inside the head of Jasira (Summer Bishil), a 13-year-old Arab-American Lolita who lives in a tract house on an arid suburban Houston cul-de-sac that looks just like the one in E.T. Jasira's fussy, stern father (Peter Macdissi) is a proudly assimilated Lebanese who 
nevertheless rages away at what he sees as the prejudices and permissiveness of the West. He'll do anything to protect his daughter, 
 but he has no idea of the daily torments and temptations she actually faces. There are the kids who pelt her with racial epithets, the buxom models in skin magazines that are the very first images to turn her on, and the squinty-eyed redneck-patriot neighbor (Aaron Eckhart) who fondles her, then tries to go further. The film presents these situations in a state of hiply detached curiosity that's meant to mirror Jasira's alienation from her own body (or something). Yet as it becomes clear that Ball, in essence, has just restaged American Beauty with a socially conscious paint job, the sensationalism of Towelhead looks more and more like a dramatic tic. B–

Originally posted Sep 10, 2008 Published in issue #1012 Sep 19, 2008 Order article reprints
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