Raising Victor Vargas

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The ViewWellington Review

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Review byMatthew Turner15/09/2003


Four out of Five stars
Running time: 88 mins

Refreshing, funny, well-directed coming of age movie, with impressively naturalistic performances from its cast of newcomers.

Raising Victor Vargas is the first film by 27 year old writer-director Peter Sollett. Though the film is semi-autobiographical and set amongst the Latino community of New York’s Lower East Side, Sollett himself is not Latino - he re-set the film there after his extensive casting call brought in several great Latino actors who he felt would be perfect for the roles. The result is an enjoyable coming of age movie that’s a far cry from neatly-packaged Hollywood teen comedies.

Largely Improvised

Largely improvised by its cast of mostly non-professional actors, the film stars Victor Rasuk as Victor Vargas, an adolescent boy hell-bent on enjoying a summer as a ladies’ man.

However, when he’s caught having sex with an unpopular, overweight girl, he quickly finds himself the laughing stock of the neighbourhood, so he sets his sights on the seemingly unattainable ‘Juicy’ Judy Ramirez (Judy Marte) in order to restore his rapidly crumbling reputation.

Obvious And Excellent Influences

Raising Victor Vargas is similar to the films of David Gordon Green (George Washington, All The Real Girls) in that it creates a similar intimate, naturalistic atmosphere between its characters. This is due in no small part to impressive cinematography by Tim Orr, who also shot both of Green’s films. He uses a lot of close-ups and a hand-held camera, allowing Sollett to capture every detail of the actor’s expressions.

The cast are excellent and the characters are extremely likeable. Particularly impressive is Melonie Diaz (Luis Guzman’s daughter in Double Whammy) as Judy’s best friend, who starts a secret relationship with Victor’s best friend Harold (Kevin Rivera). Silvestre Rasuk (Victor’s real-life brother) is also good as Nino, who struggles with a few embarrassing problems of his own. Altagracia Guzman gets most of the laughs as their easily-offended Costa Rican grandmother.

In short, there’s a lot to enjoy in Raising Victor Vargas and it makes a refreshing change from being spoon-fed Hollywood teen comedies. It will also be interesting to see what Solett does next after his impressive debut. Recommended.

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Raising Victor Vargas
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Content updated: 19/12/2018 00:14

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