TIFF Movie Review: Alan Ball’s Nothing is Private

Nothing is Private

Alan Ball’s feature directorial debut is more Six Feet Under than American Beauty in tone, and more of the latter in story. There are more than a few structural similarities to Beauty, including the typical but still wonderful Thomas Newman score, an older man who becomes sexually infatuated with a young girl, and a series of fantasy sequences (minus the rose pedals). Based on Alicia Erian’s controversial novel “Towel Head”, Nothing Is Private is a comedy about pedophilia and racial discrimination. Ball is able to turn these two very taboo subjects into 124 minutes of laugh out loud multi-layed entertainment.

When thirteen year old Arab-Amerian girl Jasira (Summer Bishil) is sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend, she is sent to live with her strict, condescending, abusive, and racist Lebanese father Rifat (Peter Macdissi of Six Feet Under fame). Jasira’s mother tells her “It’s All Your faut!” That’s the type of humor to expect from Nothing is Private. Jasira’s new life involves possible sexual advances from a racist military neighbor (Aaron Eckhart), a young  boy who calls her “Towel Head” who she is forced to babysit, a horny African American boyfriend who she is forbidden to see, and a nosey next door neighbor (Toni Collette).

Nothing Is Private has earned a lot of hate at this year’s Toronto Film Festival. It isn’t like people dislike this film, they absolutely hate it. Why? Could it be the politically incorrect comic treatment of the taboo subject matter? Whatever the reason, this film really snuck up on me. I heard a few people talking about exploitation of the young actress who appears next to nude in sexually explicit situations. But it turns out the 13 year old girl is actually played by a overage 18 year old. So there was no exploitation here.

This is an incredible first film from Ball, which further proves my thoughts that screenwriters often make great directors.

/Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10

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About the Author

Peter Sciretta is a film geek and popcultured fanboy living in Los Angeles. He created /Film in 2005.

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