To make matters more overwhelming for Billy, he is contending with his good ol’ boy father, who fiercely disapproves of his son’s relationship with Virginia. As for Virginia, she is a bundle of unpredictability whom Billy seems to have fallen for as a result of proximity more than anything.
The tone of Tuscaloosa is much more subdued and pastoral than the kitchen sink approach to the story, and subject matter would lead you to believe. Tuscaloosa (the movie was actually filmed in Minnesota…go figure) is bathed in the glow of perpetual sunset, and there are several quiet conversations between characters. The cinematography by Theo Stanley is artfully showy. It leans heavily on the low angles and gliding bird’s-eye view shots. Ultimately, Tuscaloosa never seems sure if it wants to be a socially conscious period film or an arthouse film with social undercurrents.
“…never seems sure if it wants to be a socially conscious period film or an arthouse film with social undercurrents.”
Bostick and Dyer have sufficient chemistry to convincingly pull off the forbidden romance, even if some of their confrontations have an acting-school intensity. On the whole, however, the acting is excellent, with Davis and Bostick turning in especially compelling performances.
It is evident that Harder is hoping to draw certain social parallels between the period in which his movie is set and contemporary American society. Yet, his script can be a bit preachy and overly expository, with dialogue like, “No matter how well you think you know someone, they can change.” I suspect, however, that it is in capturing the movie’s social relevance where Harder is focusing his artistic attention rather than on the words in his script. The period is beautifully realized, and the film comes with an impressive music score. The rights to some songs on the excellent soundtrack must have cost a pretty penny.
Harder tries very hard to pack a lot of material and topicality into Tuscaloosa. While he doesn’t always succeed in creating a seamless story, at least it’s better than the similarly themed American Pastoral.
"…bathed in the glow of perpetual sunset."