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Raising Victor Vargas (2002)

Cast: Victor Rasuk, Victor Rasuk, Judy Marte, more...
Director: Peter Sollett, Peter Sollett
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: Columbia TriStar
Genre: Independent, Coming of Age
Running Time: 88 min.
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish
    see additional details...

This title is currently out of print.

Victor (Victor Rasuk), a horny teenager living on Manhattan's Lower East Side, has an afternoon rendezvous with a girl known as "Fat Donna" (Donna Maldonado). When his sister, Vicki (Krystal Rodriguez), finds out about it, she spreads word throughout the neighborhood, severely damaging what Victor thinks is his reputation. Then he and his best friend, Harold (Kevin Rivera) visit the public pool, where Victor spots the lovely Judy (Judy Marte), known locally as "Juicy Judy," and he decides to salvage his good name by pursuing her. While Judy is standoffish, Harold has better luck with her friend, Melonie (Melonie Diaz of Double Whammy). Judy's shy younger brother, Carlos (Wilfree Vasquez) agrees to help Victor get close to Judy if Victor will introduce him to Vicki. As Victor clumsily, but doggedly pursues her, Judy decides to let Victor think he's her boyfriend, in the hope that his presence will discourage neighborhood boys from harassing her all the time. Victor's strict grandmother (Altagracia Guzman) is furious when she learns that Victor introduced Vicki to a boy, and she also worries about his influence on his goody-two-shoes younger brother, Nino (Rasuk's real-life brother Silvestre). Writer/director Peter Sollett's feature debut is an expansion of his original short, Five Feet High and Rising, which featured many of the same actors. Sollett had his mostly non-professional cast improvise much of their dialogue. Raising Victor Vargas was shot by Tim Orr, who also lensed David Gordon Green's feature debut, George Washington. Raising Victor Vargas was shown at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival and at New Directors/New Films. ~ Josh Ralske, All Movie Guide

You might also enjoy:
Short Cinema Journal 10: Chaos
Contains Sollett's short film "Five Feet High and Rising," which spawned this feature

Our Song
Jim McKay's excellent and vividly real portrayal of teenage girls in Brookyln

GreenCine Member Reviews

High on life by underdog September 29, 2003 - 9:33 AM PDT
3 out of 3 members found this review helpful
Peter Sollett's film, an expansion of the story he explored in the indie short Five Feet High and Rising, is beautifully rendered slice of New York life. The story -- an awkward romance between a cocky boy with a messed up family life and a hardened girl -- is fairly slight but it's the authenticity, the grittiness mixed with sweetness, the detailed way Sollett captures these kids' lives, that really elevates the film. The performances only occasionally bely the actors amateur status; for the most part they are so real and true to life that you forget you're watching a fictional film at all, but rather feel as if you're evesdropping on the lives of the marginal. And like a good documentary, learning something along the way.

The woman who plays Victor's grandmother, the poor old Dominican stuck raising three stir-crazy kids, is unforgettable. She's probably the least "professional" of all the actors in the film but in some ways the most memorable and real. You feel the sadness and regret she has for her life, the exasperation. And the role religion can play in the lives of immigrants, both positively and negatively. Judy Marte is also particularly wonderful as the girl Victor has his eye on. Tim Orr, who also did the cinematography for David Gordon Green's films (George Washington, All the Real Girls), does a nice job catching both the beauty and the harshness of the urban landscape, and the delicate nature of these relationships. Raising Victor Vargas is a subtle, nuanced, and ultimately uplifting little film that is everything Larry Clark's Kids was not. Patient viewers will be rewarded.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.41)
153 Votes
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