(mx) wrote: Towelhead is film based on the book of the same name and it is a coming of age narrative about a 13 year old Arab-American girl, named Jasira Maroun, growing up in a Middle American suburb community of Texas. In the first scene, there is nondiegetic 80s rock music playing in the background, as we see a long shot of Jasira, played by Summer Bishil, in a swimsuit and her bikini line covered with shaving cream while there is a short shot of her mother??s boyfriend getting ready to shave her. With this bizarre scene and the strange rock music playing in the background, the audience should already know they are in for a rollercoaster of uneasy scenes. After getting her pubic hair shaved by her mother??s boyfriend without her mother??s permission, her mother decides to send Jasira to go live with her racist, overbearing, and stern father in Houston, Texas. Upon arriving in Houston Jasira begins to struggle with her raging hormones, racism and the occasional nosy neighbors. Her sexual obsession is made worse when she finds sexual magazines while babysitting the son of the Vuoso??s, her next door neighbors. Her father, who tends to spend more time with his girlfriend than with Jasira, enforces strict rules on Jasira, and this makes her want to discover more about herself sexually. She often finds companionship with her nice yet creepy next door neighbor Mr. Vuoso, played by Aaron Eckhart, and his adult magazines, and her classmate Thomas, played by Eugene Jones III, who also has a sexual obsession. Often Jasira seems to get more parenting from her next door neighbor like Mr. Vuoso, and Melina. Melina, played Toni Collette, is a nosy neighbor who attempts to protect Jasira from getting befriended by Mr. Vuoso and also gives her a refuge from her overbearing father. Alan Ball who usual writes movies, decided to not only write this film but also take his first attempt at directing. In 1999 Ball wrote another film entitled American Beauty, and when comparing these two films we see many similarities. For instance, the character of Lester in American Beauty and that of Mr.Vuoso in Towelhead both seem to have infatuations with younger girls. Also both films take place in the suburbs. However, although the films share many similarities, their success could not be more different. American Beauty won numerous awards while Towelhead was mediocre in sales and failed to get recognition in any award show. What made the two films different in terms of success? The difference could lie in the fact that Ball wrote the film based on the work of another writer, the author of book Towelhead. It could also be Ball??s ambition to direct the film Towelhead or possibly even the fact that American Beauty was made at the turn of the century. Whatever the reason behind its failure, Ball??s Towelhead was mediocre when compared to his usual level of work. As a writer, Ball did not put much focus on character development of any of the characters except for one in specific. Although Jasira was the main character, Ball seemed to only use strong character development with Jasira??s father, Rifat. With Jasira, Ball only focused on two aspects of her life, her sexual obsession, and the clashes she has with her father. The movie showcased Rifat??s backward parenting skills, his views of Gulf War, his taste in women, his values, his stinginess, and much more. The other characters all seem to have one dimension to them, they did not have colorful personalities and characteristics, for example Thomas Bradley, Jarisa??s boyfriend, was only seen as the sexually frustrated black boy. Maybe Alan only decided to give Rifat a colorful personality in order to bring out more of Jarisa??s character, however, if this was the case, Alan??s plans did go as he imagined they would in developing Jasira??s character. I wanted to know more about her character and the characters of others in the movie. I wanted to know her likes and dislikes, I wanted to know how she felt about all of her sexual encounters, and I wanted to know it all. Maybe the director thought that raging hormones and hatred towards parents are the two most important aspects of a teenager??s life. If this was the case, then the director has only managed to scratch the surface when it comes to the teenager living and coming of age in Middle America. Apart from the terrible use of character development, the film also had a few awkward sex scenes. Even though the film was supposed to focus on Jasira??s sexual obsession, there were a few sex and scenes of nudity that were not needed. After Jasira began babysitting for the Vuoso??s, she found adult magazines, which she often used to satisfy her sexual needs. The audience has to view the magazine through Jasira??s point of view, which often involved scenes of Jasira and a few nude girls playing on a golf course. These scenes flashed upon the screen at many instances throughout the film. Although there was seldom use of music, the director chose to have loud, upbeat music whenever these scenes would flash on the screen. They were often uncomfortable to watch, because there were females jumping around topless while loud, unbearable music played in the background. At times Jasira would even think about these girls while in school and she would begin to have an orgasm. Her reactions to the topless girls and the adult magazines would often make me question Jasira??s sexual orientation but after a few sexual encounters different men I was reassured that she was heterosexual. By looking at the magazines, she became more sexually curious and eager, soon she began to experiment with pleasure in real life instead of using those magazines. The men in Jasira??s life all seem to have a strange obsession f wanting to shave her pubic hair. The initiation of these scenes is also uncomfortable to watch because of the innocence the young girl seemed to possess. Apart from the uncomfortable shaving scenes, her innocence is also apparent in many other scenes. For instance, in the scene when Mr. Vuoso caught her looking at his adult magazines, she immediately asked him: ??Are you gonna tell my Daddy???, with the biggest puppy dog eyes. In these two consecutive scenes there is juxtaposition involved, where her desires to look at nude girls in the magazines are completely parallel with the fear of her father has permanently instilled in her. One would think if she was brave enough to look at adult magazines she would no longer be afraid of her father??s strict rules. Although there were many scenes where this type of juxtaposition occurs, the actor??s mature physic makes Jasira??s nave manner a little less likely to believe in certain scenes. If the director would have invested in some young actors for the role of Jasira and the role of her male friend Thomas, it would have made the film and their nave mannerisms a bit more believable. If the actors were around twelve or thirteen it would have been easier to believe how unknowledgeable they were about sex and other things that were discussed in the movie. Apart from sex, this movie also focuses on the Gulf War and the racism people from the Persian Gulf experienced during this period. When Jasira and Rifat first met the Vuoso??s, Mr. Vuoso after finding out their nationality suddenly lost all respect for Rifat. Mr. Vuoso automatically thought Rifat was a supporter of Sadam Hussein and his regime because of Rifat??s Lebanese background. Mr. Vuoso, being a member of the American army, attempts to force his ??American?? believes on Rifat while Rifat also tries to prove his patriotism to the United States of America. When Jasira??s father attempted to express his views about the war he would often contradict himself. There was an instance when he said he supported the war but then he says he was against it, and this attitude of contradiction of his was not only with the war but also with the idea of racism. When Mr. Vuoso classified Rifat as a supporter of Saddam??s Regime because of his nationality, Rifat believed that Mr. Vuoso was a racist and stated that he personally hated racist people. Later in the film, however, Rifat ended up contradicting himself after forbidding Jasira from seeing Thomas because he was Black. Rifat forgot about the injustice he was faced with and automatically shunned Thomas because of his race. My Vuoso??s racist ways were passed down to his son and their son would often call Jasira words like??Towelhead?? and ??Sand-Nigger.??Jasira??s father also has some flaws in his parenting styles. For example one flaw that really struck me was how he did not allow his daughter to wear tampons but then he allowed her to drink. I am not sure what type of parenting styles he has, but a majority of the time it seems the his reasoning behind him disciplining Jasira is so she does not disgrace him. It seems as if he cared more about what society thought of him then the well-being of his daughter. He wanted to seem like the perfect father, and in order to make this more apparent to the audience, the director would often play soft royal nondiegetic type music whenever Jasira and Rifat were together in the house. Rifat was hardly there to show her right from wrong, but he always managed to be around to discipline her. Rifat??s absence was probably the reason why she wanted to explore her sexuality more because she probably felt lonely and neglected. The lack of proper parental guidance and love probably made her go look for love in unsafe places, like with Mr. Vuoso. The movie Towelhead sheds light on many aspects of life in Middle America that is often ignored by society. Ball decides to bring out disturbing issues such as racism, teenage sexual obsession and discovery, child abuse and neglect, and sexual abuse, in the most disturbing possible. The disturbing mannerisms he used made the film more difficult to digest for any normal person. For instance one of my classmates asked me: ??How the in the world were you able to finish that sick film??? I first watched this movie with my best friend while we were in high attempting to discover ourselves. To us this film was everything; it had everything that we could ever want rolled up into one. We loved the film so much that we once watched five times in row in one day. Now that I am in college and I watch this film again, I found it very difficult to digest the images that were flashing in front of me. The director did a great job in his attempt to discuss these issues; however these topics could have been addressed in a less uneasy way. I would recommend this film but with many reservations. This film should not be viewed by children under the age of fourteen and any one above the age of eighteen. Towelhead was probably the worst film I have ever seen and probably the film ever written or produced by Alan Ball.