Review: Towelhead Has Enough Awkwardness For Everyone

Wednesday, September 17 by

There’s a whole genre of movies that treat the later days of childhood as nothing but an abrupt movement into a real world where adults are violent perverts or self-serving assholes. They magnify the awkwardness of growing up into something that makes you unable to breathe. 

Michael Cuesta did it with L.I.E. Gus Van Zandt did this with Kids and Elephant. Todd Solondz is the king of this, with movies like Happiness, Welcome to the Dollhouse, and the abstract Palindromes.  There is one quality regarding the viewer experience that they all share—when you leave the theatre, you don’t know what to think, and you often want to crawl into a dark hole where nobody can touch your pee-pee.

The Plot in 13 Words

Sexually-confused virgin jailbait Lebanese girl fingerbang-raped by redneck in Houston suburbia.

What It All Means

Towelhead continues this long line of awkward coming of age films, adding Alan Ball’s distinct politicization of the characters. And it’s the politics that are really the problem. Whereas American Beauty dealt directly with the issue of suburban soul loss, latent homosexuality, and family violence in a concise manner, Ball’s more recent creations are an AK shot from the hip. As is the case with True Blood, Towelhead ‘s political notes miss their target, never forming a concise argument. In the end people just look like assholes and clichés.  All politics are just reduced to simple mindedness on everyone’s part, and it’s that same simplemindedness that drives the plot. 

But the movie is not shit. It’s confused and hard to watch at times, but it’s a good film.  There are genuinely funny moments, like the the main character’s father throwing a used condom at the boy who’s been screwing his 13 year old daugher, and you’re going to survey the faces of those around you to know if it’s okay to laugh. The acting is superb for all parts. The lead, played by Summer Bishil, is a serious accomplishment. She’s more believable than any of the characters from this year’s earlier coming of age documentary, American Teen.  If you can stomach the awkwardness, or if you even like that sort of thing, then check it out.  I give it 7/10 fumbling handjobs. 
 

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