Sunday, May 24, 2009

SUGAR (2009)

Written & Directed by Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck

Where & When: Beverly Center 13 West Hollywood, CA, May 20, 2009 5:10PM

This is the story of Miguel "Sugar" Santos played by newcomer Alegenis Perez Soto. 'Sugar" is living in the Dominican Republic who dreams of coming to the United States to play baseball. He know that if he makes it, he can help make a better life for his family. "Sugar" first has to get through training camp in the Dominican Republic to move on to the next step of getting to a training camp in the United States. He is successful and finds himself in Iowa playing in the minor league. He can barely speak English and is trying to adjust to the culture shock of living in the U.S. He is staying with a kind couple, The Higgins who feel it is their duty to baseball to open their home and house a potential ball player.

"Sugar" is a pitcher and was very popular back home but now in the United States he is one of many who are trying for success in professional baseball. He does well and becomes a minor, new sensation on the team. He makes money and sends it home to his mother. In time he adapts to his new environment and finds himself attracted to the couple's young granddaughter, Anne. She is trying to be friendly and invites him to join her and her friends in their religious group. She is attracted to "Sugar" but is afraid to pursue the relationship further. This is one of the first disappointments "Sugar" will face.

"Sugar" is injured during a game and has to sit out for a while. Jorge, a Dominican friend on the team, who has helped guide "Sugar" is cut from the team because he never really recovered from his own injury. Jorge can't bring himself to go back to the Dominican Republic and goes to New York to start a new life.

Another Dominican joins the team and "Sugar" watches him as he becomes the latest hot, new pitcher. After this, "Sugar" has become disillusioned in baseball. He has lost his confidence and is afraid he will be discarded as well. He decides to leave the team and follow Jorge to New York. His mother tries talking him to go back to the team but he can't do it no matter how much the money he earns can help his family. He arrives in New York but doesn't find Jorge. Since he is there, he has to survive so he gets work in a restaurant. He befriends a carpenter and he helps "Sugar" with a place to live. He is now living for himself. in pursuit of his own future.

Mr. Soto was found after an extensive search in the Dominican Republic. He gives a good performance and actually is a baseball player. The film uses other players in supporting roles as well. I went to the Dominican Republic last year and I saw first hand how life is very difficult there. I can understand how people will do whatever they need to do to survive. It is poor country but the people are kind and welcoming. This is another great film by Ms Boden and Mr Fleck after "Half Nelson" which was one of my favorites of 2006. Now this is not as good as that but it is definitely worth checking out.