‘Towelhead’ – Sour suburban nightmare

‘Towelhead’ – Sour suburban nightmare

Peter Macdissi and Summer Bishil star in Towelhead

Those who argued writer Alan Ball mugged suburbia in “American Beauty” will find only confirmation from his latest feature.

“Towelhead,” out Dec. 30 on DVD, has little good to say about middle America. Then again, there’s so much disdain spread throughout the film it’s hard to decipher just who Ball has in his cross hairs.

It’s the ugliest movie of the year this side of “Saw V.”

“Towelhead” concerns a young Arab-American girl named Jasira (Summer Bishil) who moves in with her father (Peter Macdissi) after an awkward incident with her mom’s beau. Her father’s method of parenting is just short of monstrous. He’s quick to anger and quicker to smack her around should she break any of his moral commandments – like thou shall not dress like your western peers.

Her life gets much worse when the next door neighbor, an Army reservist played by Aaron Eckhart, takes an unhealthy interest in her. And let’s not forget Jasira’s sexual relationship with a black classmate which brings up issues of both racism and premarital coupling. The young man isn’t nearly as cruel as the other characters, but he knows precisely how to manipulate a perfect victim like Jasira.

The crush of sexual advances collides with Jasira’s own budding sexuality. In a film with its head in the right place, all of the above would send her careening out of control. Instead, Jasira seems to grow stronger with every awful act forced upon her.

Such grotesque storylines can be beautiful in the right hands. Take “Happiness,” Todd Solondz’s bleak drama which tackled even more foul behavior but did so with a delicate touch leavened by black humor. But Ball of “Six Feet Under” fame uses a sledgehammer to bring home his points, lacking Solondz’s uniquely dour touch.

Many exchanges feel more like dramatic exercises than naturalistic storytelling. Frankly, we just can’t buy it, from a late dinner scene to Jasira’s wise beyond her years declarations.

For all its flaws, “Towelhead” moves at an impressive clip. There’s hardly a moment of down time in the film, not an ounce of fat that could be snipped away. Yet it doesn’t feel rushed. The plot mechanics are rock solid, but everything else borders on the surreal.

The film’s resolution is open ended but still wholly unaffected by the reality of what Jasira would actually face. It’s a deeply artificial ending to an intermittently artificial yet thought provoking film.

ALSO CHECK OUT:

John Nolte’s piece on “Towelhead” over at PajamasMedia.com

(Photo: Peter Macdissi and Summer Bishil star in “Towelhead,” the new film from “American Beauty” screenwriter Alan Ball.)

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.

No related posts.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

KNo Gravatar December 27, 2008 at 6:00 am

Ironically, this movie would be a lot more believable if the child molester was a Hollywood director instead of an Iraq war vet.

MiriamNo Gravatar October 12, 2009 at 2:08 am

LOL: Todd Solondz’ “Happiness” was handled with a “delicate touch”??

Sure – and Madonna expresses her sexuality with subtle repression!

Adam NedsoulisNo Gravatar March 3, 2012 at 9:39 pm

There was nothing beautiful about “Happiness,” nor was it the least bit humorous.

Leave a Comment