“Anytime you actually finish a film, I think it’s a success. And to have that film seen and liked by audiences is the ultimate. I just hope to continue making and finishing films. And then get them seen,” “Sugar” co-director Ryan Fleck told indieWIRE back in 2006 when his feature, “Half Nelson” hit theaters – co-written by his partner and “Sugar” co-director Anna Boden. The film went on to theatrical success and an Oscar nomination for best actor for Ryan Gosling.
Fleck and Boden returned to Sundance with their follow up in 2008 about an aspiring baseball player from the Dominican Republic hoping to make it big in the U.S. major leagues with “Sugar.” And as the film rolls out this weekend via Sony Classics, the critics seem to be giving near universal praise. Salon went for the jugular lest their be any confusion, and headlined their take on the feature, ““Sugar”: Best baseball movie ever.”
Wrting for indieWIRE during its debut at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, critic Anthony Kaufman called the film a “stunning, subtle achievement” and “a deeply resonant story… [that] proves [Boden and Fleck] are just as adept working on a wider canvas, away from home.”
The ever-crucial New York Times review was also a virtual homerun with A.O. Scott calling the film “wise and lovely” and went on to say that the film “belongs on a shelf with ‘Hoop Dreams,’ another great film that challenges us to shed our illusions about sports…”
Not falling into the cliche trap is one note of praise that resonated with critics across the spectrum, including Melissa Anderson for The Village Voice. “Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck have transformed some of the saggiest, most cliched genres with smarts, non-screechy politics, superb acting, and visual beauty…”
“[‘Sugar’] takes stock of many the factors that can tip the balance for or against even a genuinely talented athlete to go all the way with his God-given gifts,” added Todd McCarthy from his Sundance review for Variety.
The Wall Street Journal‘s Joe Moregenstern called the film a “quietly surprising drama,” but did warn the story of an immigrant athlete succeeding then faltering “isn’t the most exciting choice you can make at the movies,” he does conclude, “‘Sugar’ demands patience, it deserves attention.”