Metascore
57

Mixed or average reviews - based on 31 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 14 out of 31
  2. Negative: 4 out of 31
  1. Reviewed by: Priya Jain
    100
    To call Towelhead exploitative is to miss the point. What made Towelhead the novel so extraordinary was the honesty in Jasira's adolescent narrative voice, the genuine way she misguidedly, but honestly, conflates the sexual attention she receives with the parental affection she really needs. With the film, Ball, though he drops the book's first person narration, is faithful to that voice.
  2. Reviewed by: Zack Haddad
    100
    Racism, teen sex, and war are all hot button issues. When you are a young person these things can seem new and confusing. In Alan Ball’s genius Towelhead, all of those above mentioned subjects go hand-in-hand in a truly wonderful cinematic experience.
  3. Alternately disturbing, laceratingly satirical and affectingly poignant, the film, which he adapted from the novel, Towelhead, by Alicia Erian, is very much a companion piece to the Ball-penned "American Beauty" in its unwavering examination of the dirty little secrets and raging hypocrisies lurking just beyond all those manicured suburban lawns.
  4. 88
    The movie puts Jasira -- and the audience -- through the wringer, but it also makes the ride worth it.
  5. The result is a movie about the many forms of social and sexual abuse that does not make the abusee a victim but victor.
  6. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    88
    The movie belongs to the fifth-billed Bishil, a truly gutsy young actress who captures the essence of young female desire in all its adolescent confusion.
  7. The story builds to a feverish pitch and then never reaches a satisfactory conclusion. But while it’s onscreen, the film moves, incites, and jabs, all while reminding us how difficult it is to grow up female and sane in this world.
  8. Reviewed by: Tasha Robinson
    75
    Everything about the film is aggressively provocative, in both senses of the word.
  9. 75
    A blackly funny provocation.
  10. 75
    Ball may not have the answers but he eloquently and forcefully explores some of the potential ramifications. The ending may be too pat, but the journey to get there - bitter, spicy, and poignant - more than compensates for any last-minute fumbles.
  11. Reviewed by: Neely Tucker
    70
    It's clever and original with an excellent cast. Ball's script catches a lot of the novel's pop, often word for word. I laughed a lot.
  12. As it becomes clear that Ball, in essence, has just restaged American Beauty with a socially conscious paint job, the sensationalism of Towelhead looks more and more like a dramatic tic.
  13. Beautifully acted and accomplishes exactly what writer/director Alan Ball set out to accomplish.
  14. 63
    The heart of the movie is really in Jasira's moments with her father, a mass of contradictions that Macdissi plays with comic ferocity and genuine feeling.
  15. 60
    This third-act redemption raises Towelhead several notches, but it still ends up feeling like a well-acted and well-intentioned after-school special, a long way from the vividness and texture of Ball's television work.
  16. The film is superbly acted (especially by Macdissi, who makes the father a borderline hysteric), but it's hard to know what to feel except, "How can any girl navigate this oversexualized culture?"
  17. A crude but scathing portrait of suburban life.
  18. Reviewed by: Bob Mondello
    55
    The performances are nicely calibrated, even when the director isn't meshing them into a persuasive whole. Summer Bishil makes Jasira an appealing naif -- smart, precocious and curious, if too easily led by hormones.
  19. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    50
    The potency of the acting is also undercut by leaden pacing and a sense of claustrophobia.
  20. Ball's snide humor and cynical arrogance undercut his message at every turn.
  21. Reviewed by: Gary Goldstein
    50
    On the upside, newcomer Summer Bishil turns in a gutsy, quietly riveting performance as Jasira.
  22. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    50
    The 19-year-old actress Summer Bishil captures the terrifying combination of lubricity and innocence that is being 13. Her performance is the truest thing in a movie that, for all its good intentions, feels thoroughly phony and mildly embarrassing.
  23. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    50
    Towelhead is transgressive without being effectively subversive, gutsy to no particular end. It simply lacks style, which counts for so much in this sort of thing.
  24. 50
    As a director Ball amplifies the flaws in his own writing; his supporting characters are too broadly pitched to take seriously, and he tends to smack you in the face with the point of every scene.
  25. 50
    From its title on down, Towelhead alarms and manipulates, and succeeds in goading the audience like a schoolyard bully, but apart from Bishil's harrowing attempts to find herself, the strings stay too visible.
  26. What he (Ball) intends as knife-edge realism instead comes across as another con job.
  27. As a first-time feature director, though, he (Ball) seldom lets the material speak for itself. Every shot is a statement, every scene sells an attitude.
  28. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    38
    Ball's trying to be honest about adolescent coming of age, but since he's dishonest about everything else, the movie collapses in on itself.
  29. So disturbing it makes you uncomfortable watching it.
  30. Ball knows one trick, and it's sure over.
  31. Reviewed by: Nick Pinkerton
    20
    Ball, who can't conceive of human motives beyond the hypertrophic, smutty sexuality that's his stock in trade, primly divides his characters into avatars of Sick Repression or Healthy Liberation.
User Score
6.5

Generally favorable reviews- based on 21 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 8 out of 13
  2. Negative: 3 out of 13
  1. JenniferK
    Jan 6, 2010
    9
    Funny, sad, disgusting, rivetting, nauseating, feel-good movie- Summer Bashil is definitely the star of the movie- One of the best movies I have seen in a long time- at times I didn't know wheter to vomit, cry shout or laugh- some consider this movie to be an unrealistic after school special on the dangers of inappropriate touching, for me the movie seemed very real-to-life. Full Review »
  2. Dale
    Aug 12, 2009
    4
    The film is artless, harsh, an stripped of any mystery. The performances are good, and Summer Bishi is highly promising. I'm glad I saw it just to see her fine work. Full Review »
  3. JH
    Feb 3, 2009
    9
    This is an important and entertaining movie that involves some very unsettling issues. Although the main character has a Middle Eastern background, that particular fact is not the crux of the matter. This movie is really about teenage sexuality, and it is certain to disturb almost everyone to some degree. All you have to do is look at the negative reviews to see how much some people were offended. Despite all that, this is a very good movie that should be viewed and seriously contemplated. I encourage you to watch it, and before you judge harshly, think back to your own adolescence and ask yourself, "is this movie an accurate and authentic depiction of teenage sexuality?" I think Alan Ball is courageous for making this movie, and I think that it is authentic to a degree that will make most religious people hopping mad. Full Review »