AWFJ Women On Film – “Sugar” – Susan Granger reviews

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Not only is baseball season underway but here comes the first baseball movie of the year although, in a deeper level, it’s really about the immigrant experience.

With dreams of playing in Yankee Stadium, buying a Cadillac he can drive on water and – most of all – pulling his family out of poverty, Miguel “Sugar” Santos (Algenis Perez Soto) is a confident 19 year-old pitching prospect from San Pedro De Macoris in the Dominican Republic. That’s the Caribbean island where Sammy Sosa, Pedro Martinez, Juan Marichal, Rico Carty, Manny Motta, Jose Reyes, David Ortiz (Big Papi) and the Alou brothers got their start. Dominican players are not subject to the major league draft and can be signed by any team when they turn 16.

Yet when Sugar is invited by the (fictitious) Kansas City Knights to spring training in Arizona to play in the United States’ minor leagues, culture shock sets in. Nevertheless, his mean knuckle curveball earns him a trip to the Single-AQ team in Iowa, where he boards with the older, conservative Higgins family out on their isolated farm. But because he speaks little English, there’s no kindred spirit for him to talk to, except Jorge (Rayniel Rufino), and Sugar’s understandably lonely. Eventually, on his quest for self-discovery, he finds himself questioning the social and economic consequences of his lifelong ambition.

Writers/directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (“Half Nelson”), a married couple who live in Brooklyn, have crafted a thoughtful drama which, while fictional, is evocative of the reality-based basketball-themed “Hoop Dreams.” Essentially, it examines what happens to aspiring big league “beisbol” players who go through the process and don’t make it. Underscoring the essential believability is the fact that long-limbed Algenis Perez Soto was a real-life baseball player before he was cast in this film and that Dominican former World Series MVP Jose Rijo was Boden/Fleck’s principal advisor; Rijo also appears briefly as an actor.

In Spanish and English, with English subtitles, on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Sugar” is an authentic 8 – a timely tale about trying to score.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.