Light Pulp: Our Review of ‘Sugar Mountain’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - December 09, 2016

A grown man walks, minuscule while being lost on the snowy foothills of Sugar Mountain, Alaska. It looks like an open and shut case for this new adventurer. But we wouldn’t have a movie if everything is what it seems, because stories like this have more shady characters. The film reveals the missing man to be a scammer type.

The man spends his time talking to people around him how he can get ahead in life. And of course there has to be more intrigue. He would need a brooding little brother who’s jealous in his own way, resentful of someone else getting their way. There also has to be a woman who makes a lot of plans but is in way over her head. All of this reading like a soap opera without camp.

Sugar Mountain does a lot of baby brother brooding, its characters movements punctuated by violin music. That supposedly suggests some proletarian homey-ness, grit and sympathy without earning it. Miles (Drew Roy) and Liam West (Shane Coffey), along with Miles’ girlfriend Lauren Huxley (Haley Webb), makes some plans. The plan involves Miles disappearing into the wilderness, eventually popping up to tell the media his survival story.

The film also promises Jason Momoa, who plays an estranged friend of the Wests, the bad Joe Bright. He’s scary in all the good ways. It turns out that Miles owes Joe money. These characters start realizing that Miles must not have set up this missing persons hoax just for media money. He must have hatched this plan to clear debts, a twist that dismays Joe. Joe then threatens to make Liam return what’s his.

It might lack nuance to focus on Sugar Mountain’s female characters but the shallow characterizations jut out. Maybe it’s the casting too, since Webb seems too smart to play someone like the co-dependent Lauren. The film reduces Melora Walters, the emotional core of Magnolia, into playing an equally gullible mother to Lauren. And Ann Hutchison plays a cringe worthy blonde love interest to Liam.

Cliches abound of lurid small town drama where characters lack self-control. It’s as if the writing doesn’t want us to root for them. We’re in complete disbelief as the town sheriff Jim Huxley (Carey Elwes) is, who also works as an audience stand-in. Sugar Mountain uses its big name supporting cast to prop up its leads but neither are well evolved enough.

  • Release Date: 12/9/2016
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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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