Reviews

Towelhead

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Towelhead‘s look at one girl’s sexual development is discomfiting with a slew of one-note characters mostly out for themselves.
Tasha Chemplavil

Pretty young Jasira Maroun (Bishil) attracts attention wherever she goes. And when her mother’s boyfriend starts paying the 13-year-old inappropriate attention, jealous mother Gail (Maria Bello) summarily ships Jasira off to live with her Lebanese father in Texas.

While Jasira is indeed attractive, she doesn’t have much else going for her. Mindlessly following any directive anyone gives her, Jasira is passive and disinterested, even as every man she meets makes unwanted sexual advances on her. It’s only the actions of her actively domineering father that make Jasira an especially sympathetic character.

Rifat Maroun (Macdissi) is abrasive and belittling, berating Jasira for every minor indiscretion. The staunchly (self-proclaimed) pro-American Christian Rifat still manages to perpetuate the stereotype of the Middle Eastern martinet. Blatantly racist and abusive, Rifat is even more unlikable than both Jasira’s harpy mother and pedophilic neighbor—a hard feat to accomplish. It’s no wonder that a kind word from the lecherous neighbor entices the love-starved Jasira.

The Details

Towelhead
Two stars
Summer Bishil, Peter Macdissi, Aaron Eckhart
Directed by Alan Ball
Rated R
Opens Friday, September 26
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As always, Eckhart is perfect as the creepy child-molesting neighbor, which is good for Towelhead, but bad for its audience’s comfort level. Fortunately, Toni Collette as Jasira’s compassionate ally balances the comfort scales a little, as she is the only one who sincerely has the 13-year-old’s best interests at heart.

Jasira starts out young and naïve and doesn’t really mature over the course of the movie. Even as she begins to learn about her burgeoning sexuality, she continues to let the men around her use her. She is no doubt the victim of their sexual advances, but her self-awareness should come with some self-confidence. Instead, she plays the victim one too many times and doesn’t assert herself until long after we’re done caring.

In fact, all the transformative revelations come too late in the film, making the ending abrupt and unsatisfying. The one-note characters only show signs of depth during the film’s long-winded final act.

For those looking for more reasons to malign Middle Easterners, Towelhead provides them aplenty. For everyone else, Towelhead is merely a discomfiting look at one girl’s sexual development and the people who took advantage of it.

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