Sugar (2008)

Published on June 29th, 2011

Alex suggests you check out Sugar if you like your baseball movies to not actually be about baseball at all.

There are some movies I love that it seems like literally nobody else has even seen. At least I have heard a couple of people mention seeing previous recommendation In Bruges; this week’s recommendation is a movie that I have never been able to discuss with anybody. It seems like nobody but film critics and film obsessives have seen Sugar, a movie that is about baseball only until you realize that it’s not about baseball at all. I went into the movie with no expectations (I hadn’t even seen the trailer) and that surely helped me enjoy it as much as I do, so if you’re interested in Sugar already, don’t even read the rest of this. But if you watched In Bruges last week, hated it, and need me to sell you a little bit more on the merits of Sugar, keep reading.

The movie is about Miguel ‘Sugar’ Santos, a pitcher who is training for the big leagues at home in the Dominican Republic when we first meet him. From there, we follow him to America where he plays AA ball with the fictional Kansas City Swing and tries to integrate himself into America, while barely knowing how to speak English. We watch his ups and downs as a player, but the movie is mostly about how many immigrants view America as the place where dreams come true. Before living in America, Sugar sees the idealized version of the USA, a version of the country where he can see himself pitching for the New York Yankees. But as the movie progresses, Sugar’s perception of the country he is living in changes, and the film ends up as an examination of the classic concept of the American Dream, and how people react to changing their dreams in various ways.

Sugar is written and directed by Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, the team behind the Ryan Gosling-starring Half Nelson and last year’s inconsistent but occasionally fun It’s Kind of a Funny Story, and it is their focus on character that really sets Sugar apart. Like Half Nelson, Fleck & Boden focus not on story, but on the character of Sugar, and the result is one of the more emotional movies I have ever seen. And I’m not talking about those ‘Ron Howard movies scored by John Williams,’ with swelling orchestral climaxes designed to make you feel something, but legitimate emotion. Sugar is truly unique, and Fleck & Boden are names I will continue to follow for their willingness to be inventive and original. You might want to as well.

Watch the unappealing, poorly cut trailer below (they were clearly trying to emphasize the baseball elements to increase the film’s appeal):

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