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Based on short stories by Bruce La Bruce, this is NOT your typical teen
Cliff is just turned 18 and is aching to spread his gay wings a bit. He's never been with another boy but he knows he wants to. His single mom is cool and accepting and though she tries to shelter both of her children she's got her hands full with Cookie, Cliff's precocious "hyper-even-on-Ritalin" sister. Just one example of the kid sis's pluck... for Cliff's birthday she gives big brother Cliff a mini bottle of Vodka, a joint and instructions to go get laid.
Cliff follows his little sister's instructions and heads downtown where he meets Butch, a crack addicted street hustler with heart of gold and sexy eyes.
Cliff thinks that he's game for anything and disregards Butch's protestations that he's trouble. Cliff and Butch quickly become an item and Cliff tries a smörgåsbord of drugs, gets a tattoo that matches Butch's and even accompanies Butch on a trick.
Obviously this isn't gonna turn out well, but unlike many other movies of this ilk, Cliff realizes it and pulls back. He's been changed forever by his experiences and while he's better for what he's lived through, he's unable to help Butch and he sees him drifting away knowing he's powerless to change someone else.
What makes this different from other films of this type are the realizations that are presented to us. For example, just how much Cliff has changed is really brought home in one scene where another kid from his high school tries to ask Cliff to the prom. Cliff realizes that he's got almost nothing in common with this young man that could have easily been him had he NOT met Butch.
Another example is a trick that Butch has with an extremely obese woman. While Butch protests that he did it for the money, Cliff and the audience know that Butch did it as an act of compassion.
Cliff is played by Andre Noble an adorable young man with great puppy-dog eyes. Butch is played by Brendan Fehr who played Michael in the WB series Roswell.
I just saw this movie last night, and I loved it. I am not a renowned movie critic, or anything, but I really liked this flick. I thought that the story was pretty good. Gay teens that have been through similar situations will understand. I really enjoyed Brendan Fehr's performance as well as Andre Noble's. I was shocked to learn about Andre's death, and I am sorry to say that I didn't get to experience him as a performer. I have seen none of his movies prior to this film. I heard that this film was based on a number of short stories, and now I am eager to read them. I have had a little experience with the kind of life that was portrayed in this movie, the drugs, the street life for a young gay teen that has no other asset than his youth and his looks. I think that the movie was true to the pain that this kind of life causes. I don't think that I can say anything else, except that I really enjoyed Sugar.
I saw Sugar as part of San Francisco's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and TransFestival. This movie has it all: good casting, excellent screenplay, wonderful direction and spirit. The story revolves around Cliff who just turned 18 and has yet to experience life. He meets a hustler who turns his life upside down and in doing so learns valuable life lessons. Of particular note is the actress that plays Cliff's sister whose character is taken from Bruce la Bruce's own family! Sadly the young actor who plays Cliff died in his native Canada so this movie is his swan song. You will experience a wide array of emotions when watching this film I guarantee you. Highly recommended!
The recent tragic death of actor Andre Noble leaves a void that cannot be replaced. But thankfully he has left his mark in this beautifully directed film. Sugar reminds me of "My private Idaho" in terms of directing and mood. While the former film had River Phoenix, who made the film so sexy, this film has Andre Noble. Noble had an acting style that revealed passion and emotion with a sexual edge. Playing an 18 year old gay teen who is anxious to have his first sexual encounter, he falls for Butch, a gay street hustler(played well by Brendan Fehr). But this is clearly Noble's film. His heart breaking performance is so real and gripping, and he seemed so destined for super stardom. Beautiful eyes, gorgeous hair and a smile that would break a million hearts, his death leaves the film industry without his raw talent and that is a shame. I would rate this film as an indie classic. It really hit home for me. I hope straight viewers keep an open mind while viewing as Andre truly gives a performance worth seeing again and again.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Sound format: Dolby Digital
While celebrating his 18th birthday, a naive young man (Andre Noble) travels to the big city in search of his first sexual encounter and falls in love with a gorgeous twentysomething hustler (Brendan Fehr) who leads him into forbidden territory.
Only his second feature in almost thirty years - the first was ME (1975) - theatre director John Palmer helmed this grim slice-of-life movie, based on the 'JD' stories by underground writer-filmmaker Bruce La Bruce (HUSTLER WHITE, THE RASPBERRY Reich, etc.). Uncompromising in its approach to sex and drugs and everything in between, SUGAR follows Noble into the dark heart of Toronto's street culture, blinded by his feelings for beautiful bisexual hustler Fehr (a long way from "Roswell High"), who ends up using Noble as a pawn in his relentless quest for self-gratification. Palmer's script (co-written with Jaie Laplante and Todd Klinck) depicts Fehr's world as an alien landscape where addicts and sex workers struggle to retain their humanity: There's an extraordinary scene in which Fehr masturbates a clinically obese client (Pat Butcher) in her own home, after she's spent months saving the $300 needed to buy his services, a deed which Noble later describes as 'an act of compassion', and which is treated as such by filmmakers and actors alike.
Working on a microscopic budget (the movie was photographed on digital video and transferred to 35mm for theatrical exhibition), Franklin relies on his actors to sell the drama, and they all come up trumps: Noble is quite superb as Fehr's unwitting devotee, more than willing to submerge himself in the older man's lifestyle, until he's forced to participate in one of Fehr's tricks (a haunting, difficult sequence). Fehr shatters his squeaky-clean TV image with a no-holds-barred performance as the street-wise prostitute who sells his beauty to the highest bidder, only to find himself increasingly dependent on hard drugs, a dependency which spirals into paranoia and self-destruction. Celebrated character actor Maury Chaykin (OWNING MAHOWNY) appears briefly as one of Fehr's regular customers, and Sarah Polley (DAWN OF THE DEAD) plays a young addict who asks Noble to marry her and provide a father figure for her unborn child (he declines). The film contains frontal nudity in abundance, but not from the two leads, both of whom are nevertheless displayed in various states of undress throughout; very little of it is even remotely sexy, and that's entirely in keeping with the film's downbeat tone.
The definition of a 'promising young actor', Noble began his career on stage in his native Canada, specializing in Shakespearean roles, and later co-founded The Young Company (later renamed The Noble Players) in Toronto with fellow actor Matt Austin. After brief appearances in high profile gay films TWIST (2003) and PROM QUEEN: THE MARC HALL STORY (2004), he landed his first leading role in SUGAR, for which he garnered hugely positive reviews on the festival circuit. Sadly, whilst on a short break from publicizing the film in July 2004, Noble died of aconitine poisoning after accidentally consuming a lethal dose of monkshood sap during a boat trip to Silver Fox Island, Newfoundland. He was 25.
This goes into one of the ten best movies I've seen. I was blown away by every aspect of this film. The acting, cinematography, directing, and writing kept me enthralled and astounded through the mere 80 minutes of this film. Strangely, I rented this at Blockbuster, and I'm sure quite a few people must be unhappy with this non-mainstream rental. As someone who has experienced and seen the dark side this movie depicts without actually crossing over (much like the main character), I can't say I have ever seen a more realistic representation. I find the characters fully realized, and my hats off to all the participants in this film. It was edgy, non-mainstream, and risk-taking for all involved. I'm amazed and delighted (through turns of emotion) at this effort. Special congrats to Sarah Polley and Brendan Fehr for participating in this film.
I was blown away by this film.
So many of the characters reminded me of people I grew up with during my middle / high school years.. the drugs and all.
There is nothing "pretty" or "whitewashed" about this film, It presents the audience with an accurate look into the lives of gay street kids & their lives.
The way they live, love, and die...
This is the kind of film I was truly surprised that a major chain like Blockbuster would carry.
Wheither you're gay bi or straight, drug user, or straight-edger, there is something everyone can learn from SUGAR.
I rented "Sugar" with some trepidation; all I needed was another low budget "seedy-side-oflife-coming -of age-damn-he's-dead" story. I was surprised, no, I was elated to find otherwise. What makes this different from so many of this genre? Great acting, great writing, great directing. Wow, just like a real movie! This old story (young kid meets up with hustler and begins to sink to the bottom) has been told again and again and will be re-told again and again. There's something about archetypes here, some sort of shared mythology that just begs to be re-visited and re-explored. This movie is worth the visit. Brendan Fehr gives a masterful performance as the hustler and the late Andre Noble as the young explorer is wonderful. Some of the scenes are riveting, some endearing and one is unforgettable. I won't give more away, just rent this film and watch and learn
Like other people, I was fearful this might be some primitive
low-budget movie, but it was delightful. It's a good-looking movie, and
all of the acting is extremely naturalistic and believable. There isn't
a false note in the work of any of the actors. All this, despite the
multitudinous examples of wit in inherently ironic and humorous scenes
I loved the unexpected bits of humor with the great Maury Chaykin, who was much the same, and equally delightful, in his roles in "Due South." And when Brendan Fehr is giving people the lines of bull they want to hear it is so funny and such a treat. I love the role-playing scene with all the dialogue about sports practice.
This has the edginess of Bruce La Bruce's own films, but, thankfully, this never crosses the line between transgression and disgust or repulsion. It's full of scenes and images I would never think of seeing or putting on screen. It's like seeing Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing," for the first time. It's a new world, all fresh.
I had to turn the volume way up and rewind in order to catch some very quiet, very important bits of dialogue. This movie certainly combines the boisterous with the poetic.
And, yes, Brendan Fehr is insanely attractive and mesmerizing. I was worried whether I would like this for the first couple of minutes of the film, and then he came on screen and was there for most of the film, lifting the whole thing up. This is a real actor, bringing presence and intelligence to a role. He is, in every sense, magnetic.
I don't understand the people who say that the movie has no depth. The
most in depth character portrayal was of Butch - the hustler who seems
like a really good guy underneath. I don't think it is a requirement to
have any backstory to actually get this.
The movie is also very amusing in parts - you just have to get the humour that is going on. At the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Film Festival showing that I saw, the majority of the audience got the humour and laughed along.
In actual fact, you're dosed with the nice and amusing and even heartwarming, and then you get a complete smack in the head when Butch does something to his best buddy. I won't say anymore for fear of spoiling it.
I didn't rate this film higher because of a couple of implausible things, such as the little sister (a complete laugh and a half, but implausible nonetheless), and how the film opens. From birthday bash to the streets in minutes. However, I did get the symbolism of the skateboard, which no-one else seems to have noticed or mentioned, and which I thought was rather good.
Overall, I enjoyed the film very much, and would recommend it to just about anybody.
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