Review by Sean Boelman
Based on the novel of the same name by Glasgow Phillips, Tuscaloosa is a new romantic dramedy film set in the Vietnam War-era Alabama. Yet despite the wealth of interesting ideas that the movie contains, it often feels like the film falls victim to trying to condense too much material into a single feature-length movie.
The film follows a recent college graduate with social ambitions as he finds his life uprooted when he falls in love with a patient suffering from multiple personality disorder at the mental institution owned by his father. Ultimately, the movie’s unique premise feels wasted on a generic and trope-laden narrative.
Additionally, the film’s character development is very weak. Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the movie is that the main female character is a simple “manic pixie dream girl”. She has very little purpose in the narrative other than to push the male protagonist to greater development. The film easily could have been more effective if she had an arc.
As for the protagonist, he does have an arc, and that arc is sympathetic, but it brings very little new material to the table. This story has been told a million times before in a million different forms, and in ways that explore similar themes with more depth and emotion. Other versions of a similar story have been much more compelling.
One of the reasons why the movie is so disappointing is that there are so many hints of potential in the script. For example, one subplot involving a social activist that the main characters cross paths with is intriguing, but gets far too little screen time. The rest of the film’s social awareness comes in the form of clunky expositional dialogue.
Devon Bostick does a solid job in his role, bringing the charisma of the leading man character to the movie. Bostick’s personality is the main thing that allows this film to be watchable despite the many flaws in the script. Natalia Dyer gives an interesting performance as well, but there are some questionable aspects of her portrayal of the character’s condition.
On a technical level, the movie feels far too safe. The cinematography and lighting of the film feel far too bright and jubilant for the movie’s own good. Oversaturation is common, and many of the most annoying romantic comedy tropes are present too. It is obvious that the film wants to be more than it is, but the production values do it no favors.
Tuscaloosa is a generic and sometimes even outright unlikable romantic dramedy. Although the premise has a lot of promise, very little about the movie ends up paying off other than the charisma and chemistry of the leads.
Tuscaloosa is now in theaters and on VOD.
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