Towelhead DVD Review



Cover Art and Menus: 7/10
The cover for Towelhead includes various shots of the main characters of the film, in all of their glory.  It is interesting to see that the cover focuses on all of the characters of the film, and it is a smart decision, because the actors turn in great performances, and in many ways they are the heart of this film.

The menu is a static shot, and it is not all that great considering the cover is decent.

Features: 4/10

  • Towelhead A Community Discussion – The one main extra is a group discussion about the issues presented in the movie, and it is divided into two sections, or rather discussions.  The discussions center around the controversy of the racial theme of the movie, and the choice of the towelhead epithet as the title.   Alan Ball serves as the discussion leader, and he is joined by author Alicia Erian (who wrote the book that the movie was based on), and several well respected scholars who are well versed in American-Islamic relations.  The discussions are heady, if not a bit dull, but they do hit on the fact that this film was drenched in controversy for several reasons.

It is a bit disappointing that there are really no other extras offered on the disk.  Perhaps the decision was made to forgo a commentary, and the movie itself is a tough watch, and not many will want to squirm through the movie again while Ball and the actors dissected it.





The Movie: 4/10
Towelhead is one of those movies that is extremely difficult to enjoy.  It is one of those experiences that people are go through and then are glad that it is over.  For me, I am glad that I experienced it, I think, but I am more glad that I am done with it.

Towelhead is directed by Alan Ball, who previously wrote American Beauty, which is another piece that looks at the dysfunction between family members, and life in suburbia.  Ball seems to have a fascination in teenage lust and family issues, which, like American Beauty, is on full display in Towelhead.  It was interesting in that I did not realize that there was a direct connection between Towelhead and American Beauty until I finished the movie and was reading about it, but numerous times during the movie I was comparing the two.  The main thing that I noticed is that like American Beauty, Towelhead is a difficult watch, covering issues that are not your everyday, happy go lucky fare.

The movie starts off with Jasira (played by Summer Bishil), who is a 13-year old half Lebanese girl being inappropriately shaved by her American mother’s live in boyfriend.  Her mother (Maria Bello), who is divorced from her Lebanese father Rifat (Peter Macdisi), ends up sending Jasira to live with her father after placing all of the blame for the shaving incident on the young girl.  As if the shaving scene was not enough, the blame placed squarely on the young girl was enough for me to immediately be taken out of the movie, as it just seemed a bit too far-fetched for these characters.  It was at this point that I first saw that the movie was going to try to push boundaries to the point where they were beyond stereotypical, and beyond what I perceive as believable.

Jasira ends up moving in with her dad, who is a proud American, with numerous thoughts on the ongoing first Iraqi was that is taking place.  While Rifat battles the racism that he perceives around him, he desperately attempts to shield Jasira from the negative aspects that he perceives threaten her.  Jasira, who is portrayed as a doe-eyed innocent girl, is thrust into a world where she starts to discover her own sexuality, and is forced to deal with the advances of an adult next door neighbor Mr. Vuoso, played by Aaron Eckhart.  While babysitting Vuoso’s son, Jasira discovers some of Mr. Vuoso’s nudie magazines, and starts to fantasize about the models.  At some point her indiscretions are discovered, and Mr. Vuoso ends up forcing himself upon her.

Of course Jasira is also struggling to appease her father, who ends up being somewhat of a hypocrite when it comes to racism, ans he forbids Jasira from talking to a boy she has befriended at school because he is black.  All the while the one sane voice in the movie is played by Toni Collette, who sees the problems that Jasira is facing, and tries desperately to protect her from Mr. Vuoso, as well as Jasira’s overbearing father.

Towelhead is a mish-mash of unpleasant characters that are played by some amazing actors.  The acting itself is really quite good, but the characters are a bit heavy handed and seem over-stereotypical.  To me it felt as if there was very little middle ground for these characters, and it added to the discomfort of watching the movie because I could barely relate with any of them.  Summer Bishil was very good in a tough role that required her to switch from an innocent girl to a clever schemer.  I thought the rest of the cast did quite well also, but overall the movie was tough to watch and tough to enjoy. 




Audio & Video: 7/10
The video for the standard DVD release that I watched was really very good, and really displayed the unique style of cinematography that was on display for this movie.  It was if the whole thing was shot using a high contrast filter, and it was as it the suburbs were awash in light all of the time.  The movie was presented in wide screen 2.35:1.

The audio was also decent, with very little use for the Surround Sound 5.1.  dialogue was crisp and clean, and no issues were present.

Value: 2/10
I will not watch this movie again.  It was just not enjoyable for me.  I did not hate the movie, but I don’t think I can recommend it to anyone except for the acting job by many of the cast.  It just seemed to be a long  journey that did not end with any real outcome that made the journey worth going through.  I respect what Ball was attempting to do, but I think he could have presented this in a better, more palatable manner.

Overall Score 4/10

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About Skwiddly

I am an attorney who loves movies, music, and video games.