Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sugar (2009)


20 years old, Dominican Republic baseball player, Miguel 'Sugar' Santos has dreams of coming to the US one day and becoming a big league pitcher. When he finally gets his chance to play in Single A ball with a small-town Kansas City squad, he soon finds himself in social isolation, separated by a language barrier, and unsure of his dream.

The only thing more shocking when it comes to modern Baseball than the number of out of country players who currently play in the major leagues, is the number of players who never made it. Sugar is in a sense, their story, told through the eyes of a 20 year old kid suddenly thrown into a world he was not ready for, and forced to make decisions well above his maturity. Sugar as a film deals with all the insane number of pressures that face players who come up here: the dreams and hopes of their family, need to be the best in order to survive, dealing with an inability to speak conversational English, racism, and the personal pressures of being told that only success matters.

In dealing with these directing team Boden and Fleck take a good amount of time analyzing three aspects of Sugars life (I won't say them all to avoid spoilers), each taking up about 1/3rd of the film. In that we're given a complete portrait of only a single year in the life of Sugar, a year that would encompass most people's entire life times. As such, we, the audience, are rewarded with a very telling and powerful drama, that extends beyond the basic confines of your generic sports film. Boden & Fleck's writing takes control of the story, and its obvious their directing is built mostly around it. There's no over the top style, no crazed combination of close ups and wide shots during sports events, no slow motion for every good play in a game. Instead you just watch this man's journey, and hope for the best.

If I dare pick a negative aspect, it would be that even with its relatively short run time it does drag its feet a bit at times, and could have probably cut out about 10 minutes worth of scenes. Yet if you're wanting to watch this, don't let that discourage you, it's nothing that takes you out of the film, nor hurt the film's overall message. As such, it's one of the better films of 2009, one worthy of more acclaim than it has received.

A great film about a real modern issue in society, Sugar shows both the good and bad of those whose only way out, may just be to sacrifice their own dreams.

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