The Great Escape: Quiet baseball drama is a champ | Film | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon
The Source Weekly’s reporting is made possible by the power of your support. Be a part of it!
Pin It

The Great Escape: Quiet baseball drama is a champ 

It's actually a baseball movie...Sugar, the new film by the directors of Half Nelson, begins and ends with our hero atop a pitcher's mound. Tucked in between is a minor league season, one that elapses with all the boredom and fury you'd expect from a modern baseball drama. But baseball is a side attraction in Sugar, as mature and empathetic as any sports flick in recent memory. In the era of Eastbound and Down - HBO's terrific spoof of a clueless ex-pro baseballer - we can expect a glut of baseball satire, given what the game has done to itself. Meanwhile, Sugar has other scores to settle. It's about how easily undone are the dreams of being among the best at something, and how in order to be the best, it can be necessary to leave those we love behind. Sugar works as an immigrant saga, a coming-of-age story and a coming-down-to-earth cautionary tale. In short, Sugar is pure and honest, which is more than we can say for baseball itself.

Sugar begins in San Pedro in the Dominican Republic, a modest town that has produced more than 30 professional baseball players. In the baseball academy of the Kansas City Knights, Miguel "Sugar" Santos (Algenis Pérez Soto) awaits a phone call from America. Drafted when he was 16, he's been in the system for three years. The film doesn't pause for breath until Miguel returns to his grimy neighborhood, at which point we realize exactly what he's up against: His friends already consider him the next Pedro Martinez. Even his mother can't sleep until Miguel turns pro. Then something remarkable happens: While playing dominoes, Miguel insults a former top prospect who, while clearly still young, is already washed up. What Miguel can't see is that he's one misfortune away from a fate such as this. The passage is lyrical, even mournful, as Miguel immediately regrets the comment while the offended says nothing to defend himself.

Eventually, Miguel gets the call. He lands in Iowa in the minor league system as a boarder in a family home. Surrounded by corn, strip malls and bushels of farmers' daughters, Miguel, always a disciplined player, allows himself a few distractions. Up to this point, Sugar avoids the kinds of clichés that undo typical sports films, which tend to overdramatize the temptations and simplify the outcomes. But the film hits a cliché patch as Miguel faces adversity for the first time. After its careful, convincing setup, Sugar accelerates through its rising action like a pitcher scrambling through his windup. Following a leg injury, Miguel inexplicably loses his velocity; no longer dominant, Miguel appears finished only days after pitching fiercely. Naturally, we cut to a quiet corner of the clubhouse, where a tubby white guy slips pills to Miguel. "You didn't get these from me," he says, the line thudding like a dropped fly ball. However briefly, the clichés come marching in. He loses his cool, recovers himself and then makes a crucial decision, one that will determine the rest of his life - and take Sugar from ordinary to extraordinary.

A moving film about an aspect of professional sports we rarely see - its development of foreign players - Sugar is among the better sports films in a long while. Its use of non-actors upturns the conventional thinking (which the recent Gran Torino solidified) that only professionals can be convincing. As Sugar, Pérez Soto is a natural, as is this terrific film.

Sugar ★★★✩
Written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. Cinematography, Andrij Parekh. Music, Michael Brook. Starring Algenis Pérez Soto, Rayniel Rufino and Andre Holland. Rated R.

Pin It


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

Today | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed
Bicycle Film Festival - Bend

Bicycle Film Festival - Bend - The Tower Theatre

Thu., May 19, 7-10 p.m.
Submitting an event is free and easy.

Newsletter Signup

Get Central Oregon daily news
directly in your inbox

Now Playing

By Film...

By Theater...

Get Social

Latest in Film

More by Jason Blair

  • The Late Ones: Two siblings care for the father who never did

    Nothing like a good ol' fashioned awkward moment...The Savages, the title of which refers to the characters' names as well as their predicament, is not, as luck would have it, another bleak film about people behaving badly. It can't avoid being a grim picture in places, what with its subject matter - the death of a parent by dementia - likely to provoke nearly universal feelings of dread. But writer/director Tamara Jenkins (Slums of Beverly Hills) presents The Savages as a tale of survival, one in which Wendy (Laura Linney) and her brother Jon (Philip Seymour Hoffman) reshuffle their lives when the father who abandoned them can no longer care for himself. It's a savage undertaking, to be sure, but Jenkins isn't interested in death as much as how death reorganizes the lives it doesn't take.
    • Jan 23, 2008
  • Charlie Wilson's War

    Pretty Woman II: Dirty DebutantesEarly in Charlie Wilson's War, a speaker intones that without Charlie Wilson, history "would be largely and sadly different." Whether history
    • Jan 9, 2008
  • Claws Out: Nothing Hurts You Like Family

    Among the best films of 2005 was The Squid and the Whale, a dark drama that happens to be wickedly funny. If it leans a
    • Jan 2, 2008
  • More »

Want to advertise with us?

For info on print and digital advertising, >> Click Here

© 2022 LAY IT OUT INC | 704 NW GEORGIA AVE, BEND, OREGON 97703  |   Privacy Policy

Website powered by Foundation