7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Tough Subject, Some Clumsy Handling, but Fine Acting,
This review is from: Towelhead (DVD)
TOWELHEAD may have been the successful title of the novel by Alicia Erian on which this daring movie was based, but it seems that the title could have been altered to focus on the real issues writer/director Alan Ball addresses. The audience for a film based on variations of child abuse and racism and prejudice and dismembered parenting and the physical coming of age of our youth may be small, but for those who had the courage to view TOWELHEAD either in the theater release or on DVD, the rewards are plentiful.
13-year-old Jasira (Summer Bashil in an impressive debut) lives with her mother Gail (Maria Bello) and the live-in boyfriend Barry (Chris Messina) until an inappropriate physical advance results in Gail's denial and Jasira is sent to Texas to live with her Lebanese American Christian father Rifat (Peter Macdissi) just as Bush's preemptive Iraq War is opening. Transported to a strange world Jasira suffers the prejudices of her holier-than-thou father and in addition to school is forced to get a job babysitting - with the next-door son Zack (Chase Ellison) whose parents are redneck bigots Evelyn (Carrie Preston) and Travis Vuoso. At the Vuoso's home Jasira discovers Travis' girlie magazines shared by Zack, and Jasira's burgeoning sexuality emerges. Both at Zack's house and at school Jasira is treated as an outsider (she is half Arab half American) and endures verbal abuse from everyone - the only exception is a young African American student Thomas (Eugene Jones) who pays attention to her as a beautiful, physically mature young woman. Jasira's need to be loved and to belong leads her into situations that cross borders of proper behavior - both with Thomas and with the predator Travis. Incidents occur as Jasira learns about physical relationships and the only caring deterrent adult is the very pregnant neighbor Melina (Toni Collette) who with her husband Gil (Matt Letscher) attempt to protect Jasira from abuse. How Jasira copes with her inept parents, the cloud of prejudice, and her approach/avoidance feelings about her sexuality forms the conclusion of the story.
Yes, the subject is tough, and yes, there are moments when better writing and better direction could have delineated character development and the presentation of the pertinent incidents could have made the movie more thoroughly acceptable, but given the concept of the film, the actors are each strong enough to make their characters credible. Bashil, Eckhart, Colette, Macdissi, Jones, and Bello are superb as is the supporting cast. This film may take a few years to cool off before it is more widely accepted. It deserves a wider audience who will be willing to face issues the film presents. Grady Harp, January 09