Taking A Break From Blockbuster Bombast With SUGAR

SUGAR (Dirs. Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck, 2009)

“Sugar” is the nickname of Miguel Santos (Algenis Perez Soto), a Dominican baseball player. His strong pitching arm gets him noticed and he is recruited to play in the U.S. minor-leagues for the fictional Kansas City Knights. He leaves behind his family living in poverty in a village outside San Pedro de Macoris, and promises them he will send back money to them as he jokes with his girlfriend that he will drive her to New York in a Cadillac that can drive on water. Such are the dreams of the shy young man who is going to America for the first time. A series of lessons follow: in ordering a meal at a diner, not to use the hotel mini-bar, and how to avoid a bar brawl among other things.

Assigned to Iowa, Sugar stays with a host family on a farm and makes friends with a few of his fellow players (Andre Holland and Rayniel Rufino). He is lost in translation, literally, as he knows very little English but strives to be polite and do right admirably. It’s not at all smooth sailing for Sugar as his arm falters and a friend is cut loose from the team. After a few more setbacks he finds himself estranged from the game and travels to New York where he finally begins a more natural American assimilation.

Now I’m not a fan of baseball but I am a fan of baseball movies. From THE BAD NEWS BEARS to BULL DURHAM it’s an endearing film formula. Baseball is easier to follow in a movie, I mean I could never figure out just what the Hell was going on in the field scenes of football movies like ANY GIVEN SUNDAY, LEATHERHEADS, JERRY MAGUIRE (or HEAVEN CAN WAIT for that matter). But I’m just not sports minded and SUGAR is much more than a baseball movie. It has the same sober intensity that made Fleck and Boden’s previous work, HALF NELSON, one of the best films of 2006. A thoughtfull well made movie that is worth seeking out, so bypass the multiplexes and make your way to your local indie arthouse theater. That is, if your town still has one.

More later…

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