Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Review: Towelhead is a Brave and Unsettling Film yet Lighthearted and Funny

towelhead

Towelhead is a brave film; just take a look at the title. There’s no doubt this movie at times, can be uncomfortable to watch but never have I seen characters so multi-layered that from one second to the next, I’ll be laughing out loud then suddenly sitting at the edge of my seat, jarringly shifting in the uncomforting and unsettling nuances of the film’s main story.

Alan Ball (American Beauty) makes his feature-film debut and does a fantastic job crafting life-like characters as it was almost an effortless task while seamlessly perpetuating the plot by navigating through controversial subject matter and comedic prose.

Towelhead opens up on our main character Jasira (Summer Bishil) a 13-year old, half-Lebanese girl living at home with her mother Gail (Maria Bello). Jasira’s mother sends her to live with her father Rifat (Peter Macdissi) because of an unforgettable event that opens the movie, suddenly causing Jasira to deal with her womanhood in an unlikely fashion. Jasira now has to deal with new friends, new neighbors and a new school while battling the unfortunates of puberty. During the course of the film, she meets an ensemble of odd characters. There’s the racist neighbor Mr. Vuoso (Aaron Eckhart) who happens to be an Army reservist waiting for his call to duty as George Bush, Sr. dukes it out with Saddam. There’s the new boyfriend which her too-proud-for-his-own-good father does not approve of because the color of his skin. Then there’s the peace-loving hippies; pregnant Melina (Toni Collette) and Gil (Matt Letscher) who oddly enough seem to actually care about Jasira’s well-being making sure that unsavory characters like Mr. Vuoso don’t take advantage of the young and confused Lolita, Jasira.

aaron eckhart and summer bishil

At first, what seems like harmless curiosity quickly turns into a sexual obsession. Ball dances on the lines of disturbia exploring sexual themes too explicit for general audiences such as rape and pre-teenage sex, but nevertheless he does so in a manner that doesn’t seem offensive, if that makes any sense. Towelhead is a heavy flick yet light enough to hopefully make people comfortable with the issues it presses. At times the movie demands your attention then shifts into familiar territory by poking fun at its own subject matter rather then to elude the deeper meaning by shying away from the obvious. Alan has done this before with American Beauty.

The performances are stellar, especially Summer Bishil turning in a fantastic debut. Peter Macdissi is a return to form, evoking the mad art teacher he once played in Alan Ball’s Six Feet Under. Eckhart was good as usual, playing the conflicted role. Toni Collette and Matt Letcher share some great scenes as well as Maria Bello and Eugene Jones III who stars as Thomas, Jasira’s new boyfriend.

Quirky, risky, funny, compelling and unsettling are all words that you can use in one sentence when describing this film. I highly recommend Towelhead to anyone looking for something different. Yes, it’s an independent flick but it feels like more, bigger in a sense; in fact this will be Warner Independent’s last release due to the latest restructure at Warners. All in all: great movie, stellar acting, precise directing, beautiful aesthetic and wonderful score (Thomas Newman).

4 out of 5 stars.

JD



Tags:, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

7 comments:

Melanie said...

Independent films can
be some of the best films!
I really enjoyed
American Beauty too.
I'll have to check out this
one for sure. Sounds like
a brave film indeed. It's nice
to touch on sensitive issues
once in a while. It's a great
way to educate the public on
issues that might otherwise
be overlooked.

Thanks for the review & recommendation!
:)

Anonymous said...

I heard about this one, but at the time I believe it was called something else. Hmm. Will check it out John, thank you.

katie said...

loved six feet under! gonna watch this one..when is it out?

L.W. "Skinny" Rydell said...

Nice review John. I didn't know anything about this one, but I'm very interested. Looks like a great cast (I'm especially interested in Eckhart's performace), and I'm a huge fan of American Beauty and Ball's layered, thoughtful screenplay.

Michelle said...

saw a tv spot for this film the other day. i will check into it thanks.

John Darko said...

Skinny, Eckhart is the man. I enjoy his work even when he plays a creepy child molester. Not to mention, Alan Ball is a great writer, he is amazing at setting up his final acts. Great stuff. Plus he is a super nice fucking guy. Met him at the screening. We need more writers like Ball.

Innovative Minds at Work said...

seems 2 be interesting....when is it coming out?

Thanks 4 telling John

Take care