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Sugar
2004 - NR - 78 Mins.
Director: John Palmer
Producer: John Buchan
Written By: Bruce LaBruce, Todd Klinck, John Palmer
Starring: Brendan Fehr, Andre Noble, Sarah Polley, Maury Chaykin, Haylee Wanstall
Review by: Harrison Cheung
Official Site: www.sugarthemovie.com/
   
An indie film from Canada, ‘Sugar’ is like an explicit and frank after-school special which preaches that drugs and prostitution are bad. Remember ‘Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway?’ With a shining cast that includes Brendan Fehr (‘Roswell,’ ‘Final Destination’), Canada’s indie queen Sarah Polley (‘Dawn of the Dead,’ ‘The Sweet Hereafter’) and the late Andre Noble – who died in August 2004 in a tragic accident, ‘Sugar’ is a touching film based on a short story by Canadian author, Bruce LaBruce.

Noble stars as Cliff, a young gay man who, on his 18th birthday, eagerly decides to lose his virginity. His precocious kid sister, Cookie (Haylee Wanstall), presents him with a bottle of vodka, some drugs and a subway pass to “go have sex.” Cliff leaves suburbia to deepest, darkest downtown Toronto to look for a male prostitute. He falls in love with brooding, high-cheekboned Butch – cockily played by Fehr who looks like a young Richard Gere or David Duchovny. (Gere himself played ho in ‘American Gigolo’). But once Butch hears that he’s going to be Cliff’s birthday defloration present, he insists that they wait before having sex. He offers instead to be Cliff’s boyfriend. Sexually frustrated, Cliff is nevertheless thrilled that what was originally going to be a one night stand could possibly be a boyfriend.

And so begins a strange courtship as Cliff hangs around with Butch’s buddies – hookers, drug dealers and fetish-obsessed johns – while he introduces Butch to his liberal mother (she enjoys a joint with her son) and sister in suburbia. Cliff seems blissfully unaware that Butch is teasing him by walking around in various states of undress. It’s abundantly clear that Butch is happily building the sexual tension. But there’s method to his madness. When their two worlds inevitably collide, true motives are revealed.

What elevates ‘Sugar’ above TV movie fare is its cast and intelligent dialogue. Nothing is sugarcoated as the movie takes clichés and turns them into touching first-hand experiences for the sweet-natured Cliff. Toronto’s seedy side contrasts nicely with the bland neighborhood Cliff is anxious to escape each night.

Noble is wonderful as Cliff – with wide-eyed innocence, he takes the audience on his quest for love in absolutely the wrong places. Fehr is also a revelation – Butch begins as a dumb lug but it’s an interesting veneer that slowly melts away. Sarah Polley has a small supporting role as the “pregnant crack ho” but the scene stealer is Haylee Wanstall – clearly Canada’s answer to Daveigh Chase (‘The Ring’) when it comes to precocious little characters.

First time director, John Palmer, handles his cast well – it’s very much a “talkie” film.The low budget sometimes shows in an annoying soundtrack and simple cinematography. But as a character study-driven film, ‘Sugar’ is a delicate precautionary tale without being preachy.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental.
  3.5 out of 5 stars

 
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