“Sugar” is a film based on short stories by Bruce LaBruce, the enfant terrible of queer cinema. Always seemingingly a step ahead of his time LaBruce is known for such works as “Skinflick”, “Hustler White” and “The Raspberry Reich”. So before I began to watch “Sugar”, I knew I would not be seeing anything typical. Gay teens who have been through similar situations will not only love this movie but they will call it their own. Most of us have not had the kind of lives that were portrayed here—drugs and the street life of a young gay teen who has nothing but good looks and youth. It depicts the pain that a life like this can cause
The story revolves around Cliff who has turned 18 at the start of the film. He meets a hustler who takes him in, turns his life inside out, and teaches his some valuable life lessons. It is sort of a teen “My Private Idaho’ in both atmosphere and mood. Andre Noble plays Cliff (he tragically died after completion of the film) with a style that revealed passion and emotion with a taut sexual edge. He is eager to have his first gay sexual experience and falls for Butch (Brandon Fehr), a street hustler. Yet the film belongs to Noble whose performance will break your heart—extremely good looking, fantastic eyes, with beautiful hair and a smile given to him by angels.
To say the film is intense would be to underestimate it. Everything about it is enthralling—the acting, the cinema photography, the direction and the screenplay. It is one of the most realistic representations of gay teens ever made. The characters are fully realized and not caricatures and the movie itself is edgy and takes risks
Looking at Cliff (Noble) we see a gay teen that has not yet experienced sex but he knows he wants it. His mother is fine with her gay son and his sister is the one who pushes him to have his first liaison. When he does go downtown, he meets crack-addicted Butch who has gorgeous eyes and a heart of gold. Butch lets Cliff know not to get involved but Cliff persists and the two become a couple as Cliff experiments with drugs and gets a tattoo that matches Butch’s.
We feel that this will not turn out well and so does Cliff. He pulls back but he is forever changed and although he, himself, is a better person because of what he went through, he knows he cannot help Butch claim reality and he watches him drift away knowing that he is powerless.
The realizations presented in this film are what make it different from other film of this kind. We see how much Cliff has changed in a simple rejection of a date to the prom and he realizes that had he not met Butch, he might never have had the life he had.
“Sugar” is one of those rare films that by chance we may see and once we do, it stays with is for a long time. When the market is filled with coming of age films, it is nice to see one that takes a completely different approach. “Sugar” does just that and does it well.