Monday, December 7, 2009
'Sugar' may very well be the best sports movie I've seen. It comes from writing-directing team Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, who also brought us the extremely intelligent 'Half Nelson' in 2006. The movie opens in a baseball camp in the Dominican. 19 year old Miguel 'Sugar' Santos is highly touted and quickly finds his way to the Minor Leagues in America. At first things go well for Sugar. He has trouble getting used to the American culture (though it helps that he gets to stay with an extremely caring and sensitive elderly couple) but his arm is there and he's able to find success on the mound. But Sugar eventually starts to let things get to his head and he feels the pressure mounting. He feels forced to succeed, especially since his family relies on him sending money for support. Newcomer Algenis Perez Soto gives an electrifying performance as Sugar. He never overplays him and captures the emotions of a young ballplayer perfectly. The success of his performance can also be attributed to Fleck and Boden's script, which makes Sugar's journey seem so real it's as if we're seeing a documentary. And in a sense I think that's what Boden and Fleck are going for. They want to show us this story in order to tell us how many people ballplayers don't find ultimate success for one reason(s) or another. It's also a terrific portrait of what it's like for immigrants to come to a foreign land. Though the story changes around quite a bit, the movie never loses its focus. It's a smart, funny, sophisticated, and wholesome experience. And no, unlike most sports movies, it sugarcoats nothing.