‘Sugar’ deserves a look

Posted by · 11:22 am · April 6th, 2009

Algenis Perez Soto in SugarChad didn’t bring up Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s “Sugar” in this weekend’s Sunday Cents column because, on 11 theaters, the film brought in a modest $71,000.  And it probably won’t move the needle much throughout its run where box office is concerned.  But I felt a need to put it back up on the radar since it will start expanding throughout the spring and hopefully find an audience of some sort.  By year’s end, I expect “Sugar” to still be lingering as one of 2009’s finest offerings.

Here is my short reaction to the film when I saw it at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in January:

Even though I never fully understood what it was trying to say, I fell in love with Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s “Half Nelson” follow-up “Sugar.”  I missed the film at last year’s AFI Fest in Los Angeles, and it received a world premiere over a year ago at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, but a day after catching it at the Lobero Theatre here in Santa Barbara, I still find myself turning it over in my mind.  It’s the lingering sort of cinema that I’m tempted to say will mean something different to you every time you watch it.

Algenis Perez Soto is the film’s revelation, a tender first-time performer who excels under the direction of Boden and Fleck, two filmmakers who have cornered the market on intimate indie filmmaking that actually resonates.  The duo isn’t afraid of the natural awkwardness of relationships, but not in the pretentious sort of way that leaves you reaching for a barf bag at every step of the way.  They trust their characters to be honest first, dramatic second.

That can also be a hindrance for obvious reasons.  The narrative rarely escapes a sense of safety.  Nothing is ever threatened along the way.  Nothing ever seems truly at stake.  But, in a sense, such is life.  But “Sugar” is as much a departure from the themes of “Half Nelson” as it is an extension of them, and to be such drastically different films, that is fascinating.

Give this one your 10 bucks, not the car movie.  Please.

→ 8 Comments Tags: , , | Filed in: Daily

8 responses so far

  • 1 4-06-2009 at 11:30 am

    Brian said...

    The fact that they even got this made has me in line this week.

  • 2 4-06-2009 at 11:59 am

    chad said...

    Indeed. Some might look at the grosses of Fast & Furious and see it as a bad sign for smart, thoughtful films but they’d be wrong. There’s room for both in the world and Hollywood needs its bread and butter. It is a bad sign, though, that Sugar and Hunger have NOT made any signifcant money. It’s up to you to make the room for both films to thrive and it’s not a big burden of responsibility since these films don’t need that much support to break even. Go see something independent (Sunshine Cleaning doesn’t count) and then you don’t have to worry about films like Fast & Furious breaking bank.

  • 3 4-06-2009 at 12:46 pm

    PowerballDrawing said...

    Very good post, thanks for the information.

  • 4 4-06-2009 at 2:06 pm

    Brian said...

    To be fair to the theatre going public, “Sugar” has been pretty poorly handled in terms of marketing and release. “Hunger” probably needed more of an awards bump to make people want to see it, as well.

    I think the real travesty this weekend is Adventureland’s numbers. It deserves so much more than that.

  • 5 4-06-2009 at 3:18 pm

    Patryk said...

    I’m there.

  • 6 4-06-2009 at 4:10 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    Considering that this is from the same cats who brought us Half Nelson, I’m not surprised that this is something special.

    To bad Vallejo has the worst selection of movie theaters…ever (Just one with 2/3 of the screens showing Fast & Furious).

  • 7 4-06-2009 at 4:25 pm

    Average Joe said...

    Caught this at AFI Fest last year and loved it. Though it’s much more than a baseball movie, it’s probably the best movie I’ve seen in which baseball features prominently. This is a must-see for anyone who’s a baseball fan.

  • 8 4-14-2009 at 8:07 am

    Ligaya said...

    Faith in mankind restored. SUGAR doubled this weekend ($125K) what it made last weekend ($60K). And Indiewire reports: “What’s more, its $6,389 average was up near $1,000 from last weekend.” Now if only this contnues.

    From family & friends who were at Q&As at 4/3 & 4/4 , 4/10 Boston plus I was at 4/11 SF, all were sold out – but then again all are Fleck/Boden home turf.

    One thing that struck me at SF was a 20 y.o. Chinese immigrant student, a 35 y.o. woman immigrant restaurant worker, and a U.S.-born 40-something Filipino gay man literally saying “That is *my* life!” (An extraordinary statement, especially by the women, if you think about it.)