There's just something off about Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden's movies. I should have loved this movie. It's about baseball and immigration - two subjects I'm interested in. Their last movie, Half Nelson, also was about two subjects I'm quite interested in - teaching and crack. But both movies don't quite gel for me. In that regard, their films remind me of Ramin Bahrani's films that I've seen (Man Push Cart and Chop Shop) - movies that look great, have fascinating topics but just aren't as good as they should be.
This one felt like a made for Lifetime movie for a good portion. The soundtrack was terrible. It also felt like the filmmakers either didn't know that much about baseball or thought that their audience wouldn't. It just didn't feel realistic baseball wise. For example, at one point, Sugar hits a batter which leads to a bench clearing brawl. However, he simply walks off the mound and into the dugout. Yet no one comes after him. What? This scene exemplifies some of the major weaknesses of the film. As he walks to the dugout, the sound disappears and the slow motion kicks in. There were a few scenes like this and they all felt completely heavyhanded.
But there were a number of positives as well. I really liked the last 1/3 - after he stopped playing baseball. The actor who played Sugar had never acted before and had been discovered by the filmmakers during an audition in the Dominican Republic. He was very good. I liked the host family while he was in Iowa. I also loved seeing the great ballpark in Davenport play such a prominent role in the film. Plus, the documentaries about the making of the film as well as the premiere in the DR were very entertaining. Sammy Sosa is such a doofus.
Maybe one of these days, Fleck and Boden will live up to their potential and make some great movies. I hope so.
Has anyone else seen this film? The Blu-ray disc subtitled everything - even the dialogue that was in English. Was this the way the film was supposed to be? Very odd.
Directed by Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden
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