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Raising Victor Vargas (R)
IDP Films
Official Site
Director: Peter Sollett
Producers: Scott Macaulay, Robin O’Hara, Peter Sollett, Alain de la Mata
Written by: Peter Sollett
Cast: Victor Rasuk, Judy Marte, Melonie Diaz, Altagracia Guzman, Silvestre Rasuk, Krystal Rodriguez, Kevin Rivera, Wilfree Vasquez, Donna Maldonado, Alexander Garcia, John Ramos, Theresa Martinez

Rating:


Raising Victor Vargas is a lovely film, and I wish I could tell you more about it, but in all honesty its 88 minutes passed so quickly that I emerged with very little in the way of notes or thoughts. Peter Sollett has constructed an idealized portrait of Lower East Side love which is enchanting, although almost surely mythical: Not just because it’s the mean streets of New York, but because I sincerely doubt there are any teens anywhere this sweet and good-intentioned. Victor lives under his grandmother’s reign, a would-be playa with no actual conquests who gets inducted into swoony-love with “Juicy Judy” Ramirez after a great deal of awkwardness necessitated by his attempts to stop being a smooth asshole and do something real (the lessons of Cameron Crowe, it seems, have still not yet been learned).

Beautifully shot by Tim Orr (George Washington), who has a marvelous eye for urban environments, there’s not really much in the way of heavy drama: a great deal of youthful charm, some family conflict between the incredibly conservative grandmother and her young charges (including Victor’s younger brother and sister), and non-sexual good times. Sollett seeks to find the perfect balance between a conservative Spanish Catholic upbringing and Victor’s father, who abandoned the family long ago (although, as Victor’s younger brother admiringly puts it, “How many half-brothers and sisters we got? The man’s a playa,” indicating the teens still have a lot to learn), and he finds it by omitting sex altogether. The whole film’s a bit deceptive, honestly, and cleans up the streets of violence and drugs altogether, but it’s ridiculously sweet and humane, and that counts for a lot in between the scabrous doses of Mexican and midwestern fear and loathing.

—Vadim Rizov

 

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

It’s worth a full-price ticket.

It’s worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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