Towelhead is Cringe-Worthy Cinema

Towelhead DVD Cover

Have you ever seen a movie that made your skin crawl? A movie that wasn’t a horror flick, or some gross-out comedy? A film that made you want to shower over and over, but no matter how hard you scrubbed your eyes with soap the images from the film just wouldn’t go away?

That was my experience watching Towelhead. A grotesque and disturbing coming-of-age story that made me cringe during every scene. The film oozes with moments so uncomfortable and awkward, I’m glad I was at home watching and not with an audience.

Written and directed by the amazingly gifted Alan Ball, who wrote one of my favorite films, American Beauty, Ball misses the mark on all counts. Instead of creating a poignant and thought-provoking film, he delivers an R-rated episode of Degrassi Junior High.

Aaron Eckhart and the legs of Summer Bishil.  She's 13 in the film.

Aaron Eckhart and the legs of Summer Bishil. She's 13 in the film.

The R-rating is dead on, if not bordering NC-17 at moments. This is not a film for people who like to feel good after watching a film. I can’t even say it’s worth it for fans of Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight) whose turn as a creepy neighbor-turned-pedophile make Two-Face look like a reputable member of society.

The plot? A young Lebanese girl moves in with her strict father and learn covertly about sex, love, and orgasms without his knowledge. Why? ‘Cause if she doesn’t do it in private, he slaps the crap out of her.

Bishil with Peter Macdissi (he has the porn-stache)

Bishil with Peter Macdissi (he has the porn-stache)

Actress Summer Bishil plays a pathetic and depressed teen quite well. But I didn’t feel sorry for her character as much as I did for the actress. As a result, the physical and sexual abuse she takes made me very uncomfortable, and I had to fast-forward at times just to get through it.

Maria Bello (The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor) and Toni Collette (Little Miss Sunshine) are wasted in this film. It’s a good lesson to learn that just because the writer of a film won an Oscar doesn’t mean all of his scripts will be Oscar-caliber. Or good, for that matter.

The film attempts to bring up social and cultural issues regarding the way different societies perceive sex, women, and marriage. But these subjects are constantly truncated by shots of a young teen girl rubbing her legs together like a cricket in order to give herself an orgasm. Ew!

Visit your local library for this and other fine books.

Visit your local library for this and other fine books.

Towelhead is based on a novel by Alicia Erian. But some novels are best left on the page and not transformed into films. This would be one such example.

Needless to say, I did not like this film one bit. The god-awful horror flick Pathology had more empathetic and endearing characters than this mess.

Towelhead dries up fast and receives a slap-happy F! Go rent American Beauty or a season of Six Feet Under (created by Ball). You’ll feel better about yourself in the end.

Towelhead
Warner Independent Pictures/ Indian Paintbrush
Starring Aaron Eckhart, Toni Collette, Maria Bello, Peter Macdissi, and Summer Bishil
Written and Directed by Alan Ball
Rated R for strong disturbing sexual content and abuse involving a young teen and for language (I guess if you’re a sadist who likes to see young girls abused, you’ll enjoy this film)
Running Time = 116 minutes (about 116 minutes too long, in my opinion)

The trailer:

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