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15Raising Victor Vargas (2003)

updated 3rd September 2003
reviewer's rating
four star
Reviewed by Stella Papamichael

Peter Sollett
Peter Sollett
Eva Vives
Victor Rasuk
Judy Marte
Altagracia Guzman
Silvestre Rasuk
Krystal Rodriguez
Melonie Diaz
Kevin Rivera
88 minutes
Momentum Pictures
19th September 2003
Web Links
Visit the official website

Interview with director Peter Sollett

Every neighbourhood has its resident lothario, that boy who the other kids suspect is all talk and no action.

On the Lower East Side of Manhattan it's Victor Vargas (Victor Rasuk), and from the opening scene, when he looks you dead in the eye and licks his lips, you know this guy.

Of course there's a chink in the armour, and for this Latino loverboy it's the fact that he's sleeping with the ugliest girl in NYC, and his dumpy little sister (Krystal Rodriguez) can't wait to spread the news.

Not only is Victor's rep on the line, but the gossip threatens his chances with local beauty 'Juicy' Judy (Judy Marte). And if his grandma (Altagracia Guzman) ever found out? Ouch. Because she makes Hitler look like a soft touch - and has twice the facial hair.

Victor even takes the rap when his younger brother Nino (Silvestre Rasuk) starts spending too much time in the bathroom...

And that's why you can't help liking Victor: he just can't win. Rasuk hits all the right notes, going beneath Victor's hound dog exterior to reveal the underdog within. But it's Altagracia Guzman who steals the show with her sharp tongue and old school naiveté.

Director Peter Sollett teases out memorable performances all round. He profits from the uncertainty of these untrained actors', using it to heighten the essential awkwardness between characters in improvised scenes.

What also makes this debut impressive is that it doesn't shy away from the nitty-gritty of teenage sex, while retaining a sweet-natured innocence.

Disappointingly though, Sollett ignores opportunities to flesh out Juicy Judy. She takes up a lot of screen time looking sullen, yet he never gets to the root of her detachment.

You can't help wanting more from what is otherwise a keenly observed, captivating, and innately funny portrait of teenagers coming to terms with their sexuality.

"American Pie", stick it in your cakehole.

Find out more about "Raising Victor Vargas" at
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