Coming of age stories can be tricky. Too much comedy and you risk not being taken seriously. Too much drama and you risk being accused of preachiness. Filmmakers like John Hughes deftly balanced both comedy and drama with often great results. Alan Ball - the creative force behind Six Feet Under and True Blood- tackles several hotbed issues with his big screen debut, such as racism, bad parenting and pedophilia. TOWELHEAD isn't much for laughs, but it also steers clear of the dreaded melodrama.
Out of place.
Thirteen-year-old Jasira is becoming a woman. To help protect her from society's ills, her mother ships her to Houston to live with her estranged father, Rifat. An immigrant from Lebanon, Rifat is strict and traditional. His heavy-handed attempts to shield Jasira from growing up too fast are met with opposition. Unable to relate to her father, Jasira turns to an adult neighbor named Travis, played by Aaron Eckhart. Travis's creepy advances frighten and confuse Jasira, who is still coming to terms with her burgeoning sexuality. An
absentee father and a profound naivete prevent Jasira from understanding the dangers of her actions.
Alan Ball doesn't pull any punches. The journey of Jasira is packed with pitfalls. She is bombarded with racial slurs, molested by an older man and beaten by her father for dating a black boy. Her parents are selfish, out-of-touch and uninvolved. She is essentially left to her own devices to navigate the perilous path of adolescence. It's impossible to shelter a child from the evils of the world, but taking an interest in their lives could
save them a lot of pain.
Summer Bishil delivers a memorable performance playing Jasira. Watching her transform from timid little girl to hardened young woman is both shocking and poignant. She is asked to carry the weight of the film and she doesn't disappoint. Eckhart is equally convincing as the seemingly nice Travis; while not sympathetic, he is nonetheless a sad character. Solid additional support comes from Maria Bello, Peter Macdissi and Toni Collette. TOWELHEAD is not without flaws, but the story is powerful and relevant. Definitely worth the two hours.
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A lot of great movies slip through the cracks. I'm here to catch them.
Scott is a freelance writer currently living in the Southeast. He is a film school grad with a love of theory and screenwriting. His tastes vary from obscure niche films to giant Hollywood blockbusters. In other words, he'll watch pretty much anything.|
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