Release Date: April 03, 2009
Audience: Older teenagers to adults
Runtime: 114 minutes
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Director: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
Executive Producer: Anna Boden
Writer: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
Address Comments To:Michael Barker, Tom Bernard and Marcia Bloom
Sony Pictures Classics
(Sony Pictures Entertainment)
550 Madison Avenue, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10022
Phone: (212) 833-8833
Fax: (212) 833-8844
Web Page: www.sonyclassics.com
The story opens in the Dominican Republic, where Miguel “Sugar” Santos, a pitching phenom, tries out to become a Minor League player for a major league team. To his family, Miguel is their shining star and hope for a better future.
The team accepts Miguel and several other Dominican players to come to its spring training facility in Arizona. Miguel finds out he’s not the only budding superstar there, but he earns a spot with the team’s Minor League affiliate in Bridgetown, Iowa, a team called the Swing.
There, Miguel is assigned to a host family, the Higgins, an aging Christian couple and devout Swing fans, who live in an isolated farmhouse. Miguel gradually becomes more accepted in the community, but his isolation from the Americans shows itself in small ways, including slight bigotry and struggles to communicate in English.
When Miguel suffers a leg injury and loses a close Dominican friend who has to leave the team, the increased isolation begins to take its toll.
The upshot of this story is how hard it is for Latin American baseball players to crack the Major Leagues successfully, as well as assimilate into English-speaking American society. Regrettably, the movie suggests that the vast majority of players from Latin America, whether they make it in the Big Leagues or not, must accept the fact that they will never really assimilate into American society, but can only find true brotherhood among other Latinos. The movie also suggests that illegal immigration is a viable alternative for Latinos trying to escape the rampant under-development in their own countries. Thus, the ending to this movie is rather depressing and tinged with an ultimately negative portrayal of white American society.
That said, SUGAR is an interesting look into a world that very few movies, if any, have ever explored. According to the movie’s production notes, so many Latin ballplayers come from the Dominican Republic because the Major League teams have training facilities there. The acting in SUGAR is very good and natural. A viewer roots for Miguel to succeed, but his character loses some of its appeal in the third act. Looking back on the movie, one may wonder whether Miguel himself really has the strength of character and broad-minded attitude to overcome adversity and reach out to people in other strange cultures. One might also reasonably ask whether Miguel ever really makes an effort to fit in with the society he finds in the Estados Unidos. After all, communication between one culture and another is a two-way street.
SUGAR is an interesting, well-acted look into a world that very few movies have ever explored. The ending, however, is rather depressing. It suggests that Latino ballplayers from other countries will never fully assimilate into American society, but can only find true brotherhood among other Latinos. The movie also suggests that illegal immigration is a viable alternative. This is somewhat politically correct and anti-American. Ironically, it also makes one question whether Miguel himself has the strength of character and broad-minded attitude to overcome adversity and reach out to other people in strange cultures. After all, communication between cultures is a two-way street. Ultimately, the movie’s ending probably will turn off average, discerning moviegoers.