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Overall Rating
4.6

Awesome68%
Worth A Look: 24%
Just Average: 8%
Pretty Crappy: 0%
Sucks: 0%

5 reviews, 45 user ratings



Raising Victor Vargas
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by EricDSnider

"A sweet, funny surprise with characters so real, it could be a documentary."
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2003 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: "Raising Victor Vargas" is one of the most deliciously authentic films I've ever seen. It's set in the Lower East Side of Manhattan during a hot summer, and you can practical smell, taste and feel it: The kids are out of school, the families live in small apartments in huge buildings, the streets are crowded. The film was shot in real locations, and real people fill the scenes.

Peter Sollett, the writer and director, based this on his 1999 short film "Five Feet High and Rising," which in turn was loosely based on his own upbringing -- except that Sollett was raised in a Jewish/Italian neighborhood of Brooklyn, not an Hispanic section of Manhattan. The Sundance Screenwriters Lab helped him assemble the script, and he allowed his actors -- most of whom hail from the very neighborhoods he's writing about -- to improvise and grow into their roles.

The result is an utterly charming slice-of-life picture that is as joyful and real as anything you'll see any time soon. It is full of natural humor, the stuff of everyday life, without a single set-up or punch line.

The subject is young love. Teen-ager Victor Vargas (Victor Rasuk) claims to be an expert in it, though like many hot-blooded young Latin men, he is more talk than action. He embarrassed at the film's beginning to have been discovered fooling around with a girl called Fat Donna (Donna Maldonado), for surely a stud such as he could do better.

Soon enough he has done better, semi-successfully wooing neighborhood hottie Judy Ramirez (Judy Marte), whose chubby little brother Carlos (Wilfree Vasquez) has a crush on Victor's self-assured younger sister Vicky (Krystal Rodriguez). Victor agrees to set Carlos up with Vicky in exchange for Carlos arranging a meeting with Judy. As you can see, love is a complicated thing in the barrio.

Victor, Vicky and the brother between them, Nino (Silvestre Rasuk), live with their ancient Dominican grandmother (Altagracia Guzman), a fiery, no-nonsense woman who believes Victor's romantic shenanigans make him a bad kid. In truth, as hormonal as Victor is, he's at least sincere. What he goes through -- indeed, what all the characters go through -- is instantly identifiable.

I love the details of this film. They are perfect. The dress Judy wears when she comes to Victor's apartment for dinner is exactly what a girl of her background in that neighborhood at that time would wear, and Victor's behavior around her could have been taken from surveillance footage of any teen-age boy.

The performances, too, hardly seem like performances, and I suspect some of them are not. Most of the cast has not appeared in movies before; Altagracia Guzman, as far as I can tell, is just playing herself, not some fictional grandmother someone made up for her. She's wonderfully feisty and believable, and so is the movie.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=6875&reviewer=247
originally posted: 03/18/03 02:12:13
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2003 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sydney Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Brisbane Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Brisbane Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/06/08 Mariel this movie was great, it really shows how Victor, myself, and other latinas really grew up. 5 stars
10/28/06 dave What movies should be all about 5 stars
6/05/06 j ran i just love this movie, its simple but yet it makes you feel like you were there. i just lu 5 stars
10/22/05 Phil M. Aficionado I'm going to "awesome" because the spirit and acting and "realism" are superior. Marte=++++ 5 stars
6/02/05 danielle i luubbbb this movie and victor! 5 stars
3/19/05 Tay Very realistic portrayal of the issues and of being a teenager in the innercity 4 stars
11/14/04 Shana Put it Back on T.V. B\C. I would watch it over & over again! 5 stars
9/27/04 Dieyi01 great movie...loved to see new faces in film 5 stars
9/25/04 Tor Honolulu More like a docu than anything; I've never seen such natural acting by kids that age 5 stars
7/12/04 Ginelle Greene great movie &it helps that Victor's really HOTTT 5 stars
4/28/04 Gabriella Sanchez Victor's hot -Judy's pretty-Good combination -GREAT MOVIE 5 stars
4/17/04 LoZzA its a great movie with real life situations.. loveeee victor.. he is a total spunk!!! 5 stars
4/06/04 Belinda Melonie Diaz did not play the pre-teen half sister. She was Judy's best friend. 4 stars
3/13/04 y2mckay Much more depth in this film than the video box plot synopsis can impart. 4 stars
12/30/03 Peter I loved every character in the film. They had a natural relationship with each other . 5 stars
10/08/03 aye one of the best films of 2003 so far 5 stars
9/21/03 melanie victor soOo banggin.. if he ever read dis.. holla at my screen name- xxghetochinitaxx lol!! 5 stars
9/07/03 Dede This film was AWESOME!!! It was so true to life and didn't seem fake. I would recommend it! 5 stars
9/05/03 Gabby Longoria It was a good movie and he is cute. 5 stars
8/19/03 miranda I really liked these characters-one of my favorite movies this year 5 stars
7/06/03 Emperor's New Clothes? Nope. Just a Fat, Ugly, Naked, Guy. I haven't been this moved in...Ever. It's so honest, it's painful. 5 stars
6/09/03 Daniel p Realistic portryal of a hispanic family and a teenagers first love, excellent. 5 stars
6/06/03 Enrica I love this movie, it is so real that I can really relate to it. I love it! 5 stars
6/05/03 Amy I loved the way this movie was filmed and how real the people are. 5 stars
6/04/03 Kim True to life. Amazing! 5 stars
6/01/03 Edgar Serra The love making was left to the audience imagination. Bravo! Bravo! Bravo! 4 stars
6/01/03 Sense2k The bitchslap is right on the money - this one is very believable and funny 4 stars
5/15/03 Johnny One of the most moving films in a long while. 5 stars
5/10/03 Audrey This movie is truly worth seeing, it's great. 5 stars
5/06/03 Smorgy I loved these characters! Very real. 5 stars
5/04/03 Garfield White Great! no Hollywood hooks. Texturally real. I would take a group of teenagers to see this 5 stars
4/26/03 joy best film i've seen in a long time....sensitive, real, funny, moving....very moving 5 stars
4/25/03 Mitch Wonderful 4 stars
4/25/03 Tony Great movie...one of the best I've seen in the last few years. 5 stars
4/21/03 Barry Eskandani Real! Beautiful! Authentic! Sexy! 5 stars
4/21/03 noemi romero this movie was hilarious many latino's can identify with the plot. 5 stars
4/21/03 ashok this is a beautiful, compelling movie.. see it! 5 stars
4/19/03 sMASH bOOGIE i saw "FIve Feet High and Rising" back when and i think their acting improved 5 stars
4/18/03 Lois Eltman Warm, realistic, charming, unpretentious and refreshing! 5 stars
4/17/03 Carmen It was a wonderful experience!! 5 stars
4/16/03 MICHELLE DIAZ THE FILM WAS REALLYGOOD AND FUNNY 5 stars
4/15/03 oberon loved it, loved the rusak boys... 5 stars
4/11/03 carole jones Absolutely wonderful. very real. At the end I felt like I wanted to cry. 5 stars
3/29/03 Marty This movie was real, funny, touching, and I'm going to see it again. 5 stars
1/23/03 Sean Why can't all movies be this good. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  28-Mar-2003 (R)
  DVD: 24-Aug-2004

UK
  N/A

Australia
  23-Oct-2003




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