Directing duo Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden look like they’re on a quest to reinvent American subgenres. s well they should be: too many of this country’s movies, not least of all its indies, have languished too long under the insistent predictability of their narrative and character arcs. Every so often, they need a good shaking up. The directors’ mission began three years ago with Half Nelson, which, years before The Class hit these shores, made the student-teacher movie feel fresh, even stimulating. Rejecting the phony inspirationalism of exemplars like Dangerous Minds and Freedom Writers, it flipped the familiar formula: Ryan Gosling’s antiheroic, crack-addicted history teacher needed salvation as much as his inner-city students did; he leaned on them.
Fleck and Boden, who remain a team since they met and began dating as NYU film majors, now return with Sugar, a baseball movie that, like Half Nelson, bears only a cursory resemblance to its generic forebears. For a supposed national pastime, baseball hasn’t had an easy shake recently in Hollywood: few movies about the game get made anymore, in this Costner-less steroid scandal era, and for every one that has sufficiently honored the medium and sport—The Natural, Eight Men Out, Bull Durham—just as many have demeaned one or both. Too many baseball movies have been sappy (Field of Dreams), puerile (Rookie of the Year) or crude (the Major League trilogy).
With Sugar, the directors once again have upended a tired formula, though the gist is the same: an ostensible underdog fights his way to the Big Time. Click here to read the rest of Henry Stewart’s review of Sugar.