×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Sugartime; Nov. 26, Hbo

John Turturro and Mary-Louise Parker anchor another worthy HBO movie, "Sugartime," which treats the real-life love affair between gangster Sam Giancana and songster Phyllis McGuire, of the wholesome McGuire Sisters. Pic could stand more details about the relationship, however. Martyn Burke's script is suggestive when it needs to be explicit, and obvious when covering well-trod ground. Director John N. Smith ("The Boys of St. Vincent,""Dangerous Minds") also keeps viewers at a distance.

With:
Cast: John Turturro, Mary-Louise Parker, Maury Chaykin, Elias Koteas, Louis Del Grande, Deborah Duchene, Larissa Lapchinski, Cristopher Barry, Richard Blackburn.

John Turturro and Mary-Louise Parker anchor another worthy HBO movie, “Sugartime,” which treats the real-life love affair between gangster Sam Giancana and songster Phyllis McGuire, of the wholesome McGuire Sisters. Pic could stand more details about the relationship, however. Martyn Burke’s script is suggestive when it needs to be explicit, and obvious when covering well-trod ground. Director John N. Smith (“The Boys of St. Vincent,””Dangerous Minds”) also keeps viewers at a distance.

Based on a book by the FBI agent who tracked Giancana, the thrust of the timeless story is clear: Big man loses everything for love. Gangster milieu of Chicago and Las Vegas is familiar, and teasing references to Giancana’s ties with the Kennedys and Fidel Castro, plus his friendship with Frank Sinatra, will ring bells.

But we stay on the surface of the quirky — and ultimately ironic — union between ugly mob boss and America’s sweetheart. Granted, no one knows why it worked.

On the one hand, she’s a feisty but forgiving moll; on the other, she gets Sammy to do contortions around her little finger. The relationship destroyed both careers, yet pic suggests she might have been part spider. Impeccable Turturro conjures up Jerry Lewis. His ferretlike mobster is a gawky kid — paranoid, eccentric and, of course, volatile.

When two opposites come together, there’s usually more of an emotional payoff; here it’s hard to champion the pairing or identify with either individual. The awkwardness of the courtship seeps into the static early scenes.

Jealous of her former b.f. Dan Rowan, Sammy gets the CIA to wiretap the comedian. After Giancana builds her a Venice-themed club in the Chicago suburbs, the FBI decides to get to Giancana by forcing Phyllis to testify before a grand jury.[? Regardless of whether she squeals, he’s arrested on a legal technicality. Incidentally, legal eagles may wonder why, if granted total immunity, he didn’t just perjure himself? ]

Dialogue isn’t always on point, which suggests Burke sticks too close to what the FBI learned through surveillance. Scene when the widower brings Phyllis home to meet his daughters is stock stuff, as is a fork in the hand for skimming and a shotgun execution.

Smith uses popular ditties performed by the McGuire Sisters to maximum effect by inter-cutting them with mob activities. Parker appears uncomfortable lip-synching all but one of the perfs, and supporting players don’t lend much memorable texture. Period production (’60s and early ’70s) is good enough. More on what held the couple together would round out the picture.

Sugartime; Nov. 26, Hbo

Production: Filmed in Toronto and Los Angeles by Pacific Western Prods. in association with HBO Pictures. Executive producer, Gale Anne Hurd; co-executive producer, Martyn Burke; producer, David Coatsworth; co-producer, David Gale; director, John N. Smith; writer, Martyn Burke; suggested by the book "Roemer: Man Against the Mob" by William F. Roemer, Jr..

Crew: Camera, Pierre Letarte; editor, Ralph Brunjes; production designer, Barbara Dunphy; art director, Lucinda Zak; sound, Tom Mather; music, Sidney James. 108 MIN.

With: Cast: John Turturro, Mary-Louise Parker, Maury Chaykin, Elias Koteas, Louis Del Grande, Deborah Duchene, Larissa Lapchinski, Cristopher Barry, Richard Blackburn.

More Film

  • Mara Watkins Nabhaan Rizwan Steven Wouterlood

    Diverse Talents Pepper Variety's Fifth 10 Europeans to Watch List

    Variety has unveiled its fifth edition of 10 Europeans to Watch, spotlighting 10 rising talents from across the continent who are poised for breakthroughs in 2019. The selection includes emerging actors, directors, showrunners and cinematographers from six countries whose dynamic talents are being showcased on screens big and small, and on both sides of the camera. [...]

  • Glass Movie

    Box Office: 'Glass' Shines Overseas With $48.5 Million Weekend

    After autobots and aquatic kings have dominated foreign markets over the past few weeks, a different kind of hero has risen to the top of box office charts. M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” is the new champ overseas, pulling in $48.5 million from international territories. The supernatural thriller, a sequel to 2000’s “Unbreakable” and 2016’s “Split,” debuted [...]

  • Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, Marco Graf

    'Roma' and 'The Favourite' Lead London Critics' Circle Winners

    After ruling the U.S. critics’ award circuit, “Roma” continued its dominance on the other side of the pond, as the London Film Critics’ Circle announced its winners tonight. A week after landing seven BAFTA nominations, Alfonso Cuarón’s Mexico City memory piece landed film of the year and director of the year honors from the group [...]

  • M. Night Shyamalan Should Stop Writing

    The Big Twist M. Night Shyamalan Needs: He Should Stop Writing His Own Scripts (Column)

    Quick, name the greatest film by each of the following directors: Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, David Lean, Robert Altman, Roman Polanski, Kathryn Bigelow, Jonathan Demme. Answers will vary (mine would be: “Psycho,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Nashville,” “Chinatown,” “The Hurt Locker,” “The Silence of the Lambs”), but whatever your taste, odds are that [...]

  • Andy Vajna Dead: 'Rambo' Producer and

    Andy Vajna, 'Rambo' Producer, Dies at 74

    Andy Vajna, executive producer of several “Rambo” films as well as “Total Recall” and several “Terminator” movies, died Sunday in Budapest after a long illness. He was 74. The Hungarian National Film Fund confirmed his death, calling him a “dominant figure in the Hungarian and international film industry” who was responsible for the development of [...]

  • Glass trailer

    Box Office: 'Glass' Dominates MLK Weekend With $47 Million

    M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” topped box office charts during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, collecting $40 million over the weekend for a four-day sum of $47 million. If estimates hold, “Glass” will come in behind “American Sniper” ($107 million) and “Ride Along” ($48 million) as the third-best showing for both January and MLK holiday [...]

  • FICG Names Estrella Araiza As New

    Estrella Araiza To Head Up Guadalajara Intl Film Festival

    The Guadalajara Intl. Film Festival (FICG) has announced that Estrella Araiza, until now the festival’s head of industry and markets and director of the Guadalajara IntL. Film Festival in Los Angeles, has been promoted to the position of general director of the prominent Mexican festival. She replaces Ivan Trujillo, appointed director of TV UNAM. Araiza [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content