this is who I am"
If growing up in the Lower East Side of New York wasn't hard
enough, Victor Vargas (Victor Rasuk) had to contend with an overbearing
Grandma (Guzman), a pain in the neck sister (Rodriguez) and a younger brother
(Silvestre Rasuk) who was just getting interested in girls. Add in the fact
that he had to keep up is reputation as the neighbourhood ladies man but
that was about to be tarnished when his sister reveals to everyone that
he has secretly seeing the local fat girl. Needing to do something fast,
Victor makes a play for beautiful new girl Judy (Marte) who wants absolutely
nothing to do with him.
Once in a while a sweet, low budget, character driven, romantic
comedy-drama comes along that turns out to be a bit of a treat. Raising
Victor Vargas is one of those movies.
Coming from young New York filmmaker Peter Sollet, this is
a tale of love and family that is both tender and heart warming. Movies
dealing with peer pressure and adolescent lust might not be anything new
but this is as far removed from the usual middle class, white high school
drama as you could get.
Taking place in the Lower East Side of New York amongst the
African-American and Latino communities during an extremely hot summer,
the film shows that ever your ethnic heritage, everyone just wants to standout
from the crowd.
The performances of the young and inexperienced cast are first
rate. Victor Rasuk is a young actor with a lot of talent and screen presence.
His character's transformation from his cocky, street persona to his true
self when he lets Judy into his life shows what a good actor his is already
and that he has great potential. The same can be said about Judy Marte.
Her character is hard and unforgiving at first and you have to wonder what
Victor sees in her besides her looks but when her reasons behind her fašade
are revealed it is hard not to like her. This is all testament to Marte's
The support is also good. Altagracia Guzman is fantastic as
the overly critical and paranoid Grandma who thinks Victor is a terrible
influence on the family. There are also good performances from Melonie Diaz
as Judy's friend, Krystal Rodriguez as Victor's overweight and argumentative
sister and Silvestre Rasuk as Victor's brother Nino.
It is the characters and story that drives this piece and
a lot of the credit has to go to writer/director Peter Sollett. While he
has taken some of his ideas from his short film 'Five Feet High and Rising",
which starred many of the same cast, and expanded it out into a feature,
this is still an original take on the teen romantic comedy/drama genre.
Most of the character's stories work with only slight misgivings about why
Grandma mistrusts Victor so much but this does not deter you what so ever.
Raising Victor Vargas is a little gem of a movie. The film's
almost documentary style takes you into Victor's world as if you are there
on the streets witnessing his story. It is well acted and well written,
making it one of the movies that you discover accidentally but then treasure
and recommend to everyone you know.
PICTURE & SOUND
Presented in 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
soundtrack. For a low budget movie the picture quality is very good and
the stereo soundtrack does it job by emphasising the dialogue, which you
want with a character driven piece.
Five Feet High and Rising (29.15 mins)
Writer/Director Peter Sollett's short film that would inspire Raising
Victor Vargas is an excellent addition to the DVD. Starring many of the
cast from the feature film including Victor Rasuk and Judy Marte, the
short almost acts as a prequel to the movie. The film revolves again around
Victor but he is fourteen years old and getting interested in girls, especially
Amanda (Marte). This has all the charm of the main film and you can see
the potential in both the story and the young actors.
You can watch the full theatrical trailer for the movie. Web link There
is a web link to the Raising Victor Vargas website.
The inclusion of "Five Feet High and Rising" really adds value to the
DVD release. It would have been nice to have a commentary track featuring
the director and/or the cast but the addition of the short film almost
makes up for this. The lack of more bonus features should not put you
off renting or buying this gem of a movie.