A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Movie tackles several interesting issues related to race/racism, mental illness, the nature of small towns, though it doesn't really come up with any conclusions or solutions. Families and teens can talk about these issues in context of 1972, how things may or may not have changed today, what positive steps could be taken in the future.
Positive Role Models
Billy is shown to be kind to many others, including some patients at the asylum and an older man visiting his wife there. He seems open-minded and accepting, but he's still flawed; he's directionless, gets upset when things seem unfair. Black characters are shown becoming angry at the way they're treated and responding with violence. A woman who's described as a "nymphomaniac" is treated as "insane," i.e., worthy of being locked up in an asylum. Small-town conservatives and authority figures are depicted as hateful and racist.
Violence & Scariness
Bloody cuts on a character's face. A flashback shows screaming and blood in a hospital. News footage depicts social unrest: guns and shooting in Vietnam War, segregation, etc. Character sets car on fire. Fighting, hitting, kicking. Cops beat a character; characters slammed into car hoods. Finger-biting. Arguing. A turtle gets a fishhook stuck in it. Chase scene. Talk about abortion. Other violence and death-related dialogue.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Kissing. Sexual references.
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Uses of "f--k," "motherf----r," "s--t," the "N" word, "sumbitch," "son of a bitch," "ass," "hell," "damn," "goddamn," "cootch," "pecker."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Drinking beers/whiskey in social situations. Character drinks moonshine. Casual pot-smoking. Cigarette smoking. A minor character refers to his constant drinking in a comical way.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Tuscaloosa is a romantic drama set in 1972 about a young man (Devon Bostick) who falls in love with an inmate (Natalia Dyer) at the mental hospital where his father works. Violent moments include fighting, heads being slammed against cars, fingers getting bitten, blood, police abuse, news footage with guns and shooting, and several instances of violent dialogue. A young couple kisses frequently, and she says she's pregnant. There's also sex-related dialogue, and language includes uses of "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and more. Expect frequent social drinking (beer, whiskey, moonshine); one character jokes about his frequent drinking. Characters also smoke cigarettes regularly, and there's some pot smoking. Adapted from W. Glasgow Phillips' 1994 novel, the movie bites off more than it can chew, but it has strong central characters and many interesting themes and is worth seeing for mature viewers. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Based on a 1994 novel by W. Glasgow Phillips, this drama tries to achieve a novel's depth and breadth, and while many facets feel short-changed, much of it is still powerfully engaging. Music video maker Philip Harder makes his feature writing and directing debut with Tuscaloosa, and it's an ambitious attempt, not only in the tapestry of characters and history, but in the period setting and mood. (The song "O-o-h Child" by the Five Stairsteps has been used in many movies, but it sounds just right here.)
Both Bostick and Dyer are wonderful in their roles. Bostick's Billy is both kind and an outsider, moving to a slightly different rhythm than those around him. And Dyer captures a wonderful pluckiness, playing around with the line between what it means to be "sane" and "crazy." But Davis, while effective as Nigel, gets short-changed. His character is almost exclusively seen during exchanges with Billy, and both his relationship with Billy and his transformation into a militant are frustratingly opaque. Likewise, the flashbacks to the two young mothers, which should have tied so many things together, are both scant and repetitive. But Billy and Virginia keep Tuscaloosa flowing in a touching way as they navigate the extremes of the world and all the anger that goes with them, trying to make their own place.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.