RAISING VICTOR VARGAS

4 Stars
Year Released: 2002
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 88 minutes
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Sparkling with authenticity, this workshop-style film features unknown actors playing vivid, honest characters in a surprisingly emotional story about love and family. Victor (Victor Rasuk) is a cocky 16-year-old–lean, sinewy, horny and very sure of himself until he meets the gorgeous and very intimidating Judy (Judy Marte). Her ice-queen demeanor puts him off balance from the start. And while she begins to break apart Victor’s bravado, he begins to soften her uptight attitude. Meanwhile, Victor is also having trouble at home–his bratty sister (Krystal Rodriguez) is determined to embarrass him, his little brother (played obviously by Rasuk’s real brother Silvestre) wants love advice, and their guardian/grandmother (Altagracia Guzman) is angry with just about everything. And blaming it on Victor.
The realistic characters and dialogue make this a superior example of a New York indie style film, because these people are just so true! The script strangely avoids the back-stories, only hinting at Victor’s parentage and Judy’s obviously rough past. But as the film progresses, the approach is quite fresh; this is how things are, let’s move forward not dwell on the difficulties of the past. Meanwhile, the characters’ selfish actions, which are often hilarious, are clearly a self-preservation mechanism. Then each character realizes that he or she has a much better chance of survival if they cling to the people around them.
To say this, writer-director Peter Sollett never resorts to clichés or sermonizing; he just lets the characters be who they are. And as a result, there is a raw tenderness at the heart of the film that actually catches us off guard at the end. This is a moving, thoroughly engaging film that’s worth looking out for.



Posted on March 15, 2003 in Reviews by
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