Eye For Film >> Movies >> Raising Victor Vargas (2002) Film Review
Raising Victor Vargas
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
Homegrown makes for an honest product, especially when non-professional actors improvise from a fluid storyline and work within the confines of their own experience - in this case, New York's Lower East Side.
Twenty-seven-year-old director Peter Sollett keeps his camera close, almost entirely handheld. This is high grade, low budget, 100 per cent additive free filmmaking.
Victor (Victor Rasuk) has a reputation to maintain, after being caught in the wrong apartment - the fat girl's upstairs - when he's known as the Don Juan of the Latino kids around the public pool. To prove himself, he must make it with Juicy Judy (Judy Marte), who tells him, "I have a man," seemingly impervious to his natural charm.
Judy is no pushover. She's beautiful, but wary of boys with lean bodies who drape their tee-shirts over one shoulder and ask her up for a drink of water on a hot afternoon to find there's only beer in the fridge and no-one else around.
Fitting Victor into his family is where the film succeeds so well. Dominated by their grandmother (Altagracia Guzman), whose impossibly strict rules of moral conduct are enforced with a fierce resolution, the Vargas kids are careful not to be seen abusing her trust. Nino (Silvestre Rasuk) isthe favourite, because he's too young to have been corrupted by passion. Vicki (Krystal Rodriguez) has running battles with Victor over just about everything until Judy's little brother takes a shine to her.
Contrary to the trend in Hollywood teen movies, Sollett treats sex with sensitivity and the shy exchange of words is weighed down with unspoken meaning. Far from the prancing hype of the macho boys, whistling up the girls at street corners, this is a love story, masquerading as a courtship dance.
The action may be subdued, but emotions touch the wire. Such naturalistic acting tastes as clean as Arty's ice cream first thing in the morning.Reviewed on: 18 Sep 2003