‘Towelhead’s’ Alan Ball makes ’em squirm — and maybe learn

It's a big month for Alan Ball. The Oscar-winning writer of "American Beauty" and creator of "Six Feet Under" is enjoying the recent premiere of a new series, "True Blood," on HBO. And " Towelhead," his feature film directorial debut, hit theaters on Friday.

On the surface, the two projects couldn't be more different. Based on the 2005 novel by Alicia Erian, "Towelhead" is the story of an Arab American girl's sexual coming-of-age in the bland subdivisions of Houston. The film features a thoroughbred cast -- Aaron Eckhart, Maria Bello, Toni Collette, Peter Macdissi, plus newcomer Summer Bishil, 20, as 13-year-old Jasira -- and is suffused with Ball's postmodern-gothic sensibility, alternately creepy and revelatory, with a frisky dose of politics thrown in (the film takes place during the first Gulf War).

"True Blood," by contrast, is about vampires in Louisiana and the mortals who are both repelled and fascinated by them, now that the princes and princesses of the night have come out of the coffin and walk among the living, thanks to the invention of a Japanese synthetic-blood beverage, sold in six-packs. As it turns out, there are good vampires and bad vampires. Actress Anna Paquin is stuck in the middle, as Sookie Stackhouse, a psychic heroine retained from Charlaine Harris' "Southern Vampire Mysteries" books, the source material for the show.

(LA Times)

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