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March 22, 2004 | by  | in Film | [ssba]

Raising Victor Vargas

Movies about teenage love are pretty much a dime a dozen these days, but few are executed as sweetly and as believably as Raising Victor Vargas.

Victor is a seventeen year old living with his younger brother Nino and sister Nina in his Dominican grandmother’s tiny apartment in New York’s lower east side. In the opening scenes of the movie, he is busted by his best friend having sex with Fat Donna, and therefore he is desperate to regain his cool. He decides that ice queen Julie is the ideal woman for him, and so he spends the rest of the movie trying to win her over. Meanwhile, Julie’s younger brother has his eye on Nina, Nino has his hands on himself, and poor Grandma is trying to make sense of it all…

Vargas suggests what Kids could have been, if Larry Clark actually had a heart instead of being such a mean old kiddie pornographer. The cast is unbelievably real looking – many of the females have (shock horror) facial hair, and the filming makes the viewer feel as hot and claustrophobic as the New York summer must be. The tiny bedroom that Victor, Nino and Nina all share would probably be hell for New Zealanders used to having a lot more space, but it doesn’t seem to be a big deal in the movie. Vargas isn’t one of those horrible oh-how-we-suffer-in-this-poverty tearjerking dramas. The characters have more important things to worry about – like how to make phone calls when Grandma has put a lock on the phone in an attempt to crack down on her wayward charges.

Victor Rasuk as Victor brings an effortless grace to his role. While Julie and her friends laugh at his pick-up moves, his winning personality comes across even when he is yelling at his sister, or confusing poor Nino (played by Rasuk’s real-life brother Silvestre) by saying he never ever masturbates. The rest of the fresh young cast also shine, and all in all, Raising Victor Vargas is a delight to watch.

Directed by Peter Sollett


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