A young Arab-American girl struggles with her sexual obsession, a bigoted Army reservist and her strict father during the Gulf War.
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Alright, first off, I did tick off the spoiler alert, so do not read this if you are hoping to be surprised by the events of the film-- (for those of you, I will just say go watch it, it's great!)
This film most definitely tries to be controversial on many levels. Racism, war, pedophilia, cultural differences, you name it.. Yet one of the most enjoyable things about it for me was the fact that it manages to give a very honest and sincere portrayal of a young girl's life.
Jasira isn't an innocent thirteen year old, no matter how hard her father tries to make her 'proper'. She wants to know what's going on, she wants to experience new things, and isn't ashamed of it. Now, is that so bad? Of course, she does come off naive, and multiple times I caught myself saying "oh come on, don't you know better..." But in the end, it isn't the rebellious force that's driving her. She is curious, young, and she knows she is attractive. Jasira gets bombarded by adults' visions and opinions of proper ways to behave (which are often, ironically, taken to an extreme where the adults are shown as "hardly responsible, hardly caring wine-tasters). Moreover, the boy she likes will only 'forgive her' if she has sex with him. This is a portrait of a girl who is lost in between all these different perspectives. Is having sex the right way to compensate for refusing to see a black boy due to father's restrictions? Is rape still illegal if the girl wants to have sex? In the end of the day, does she even enjoy sex? These are the questions I had while watching the movie, and a lot of it was left for the viewer to interpret, which is one of the hallmarks of Alan Ball's storytelling.
I would recommend this movie to people who enjoy a sincere narrative drama, with lots of insights into the lead character's feelings. It is a perfect film to show twelve-thirteen year old girls as well, as a means of education by example. This movie doesn't have a completely unique, never-done before story, but it will make one think. I personally think a lot of it comes from Summer Bishil's fantastic performance.
The only negative part for me was that I kept comparing it to "American Beauty" because of Alan Ball's style as well as a similar soundtrack. To me, that made this movie less exciting, as I find it still a bit dull compared to "American Beauty". However, here I imagine I would be quite biased, as that film has been my favourite for a while. That's the only reason I'm giving it a four.
--Put in short: definitely watch this film, especially if you are someone's daughter/mother.