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Raising Victor Vargas [DVD] [2003]

Victor Rasuk , Donna Maldonado , Peter Sollett    DVD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Actors: Victor Rasuk, Donna Maldonado, Kevin Rivera, Krystal Rodriguez, Judy Marte
  • Directors: Peter Sollett
  • Writers: Peter Sollett, Eva Vives
  • Producers: Peter Sollett, Alain de la Mata, Cate Wilson, Jean-Michel Dissard, Robin O'Hara
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Classification: R (Restricted) (US MPAA rating. See details.)
  • Run Time: 88 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005JMGX

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant film! 14 Dec 2012
By Telaja
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This film is full of fun and humour. Whenever I,ve got spare time I watch this film over and over again!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Staggering... 3 Nov 2012
By Hitch22
... that no-one in the UK appears to have experienced and wants to comment on this absolutely wonderful film. This is anti-hollywood...perfect film making, perfect actors etc. A lovely film that I watched probably 7-8 years ago and have never forgotten it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  51 reviews
34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deserves applause. 12 Mar 2004
By L. Quido - Published on
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Although independent films such as this have virtually no DVD extras, sometimes the subtleties of the film itself can more easily be grasped on the small screen than in the theater. I saw "Raising Victor Vargas" in both venues, and preferred the intimacy of the DVD.
"Juicy Judy", played by Judy Marte in Peter Sollett's 2003 independent film, "Raising Victor Vargas" has no intention of being impressed by the insouciant Victor (Victor Rasuk) of title fame. She's grown through adolescence in the poor area of New York's lower east side. She's remained aloof to the enticements that come to her because of her beauty and look of wariness. She prefers to spend her time with best friend Melonie (Melonie Diaz), talking about life and love; exasperated by how much she is approached by men and boys. She's drawn a shell about herself, her composure untouched, her lack of trust in anyone outside Melonie and her family is palpable. We see her early on with only one gesture of instantaneous emotion, and that is when she impulsively hugs and kisses her chubby little brother at the community pool. If Director Sollett missed anything in this movie, it is a better glimpse of Judy's family life, what things contributed to her sense of pride and why she is so comfortable in her aloneness, not falling prey to the syndrome that is pride and risk-taking by beautiful young girls.
We see Judy through the eyes of Victor Vargas. Victor appears to be much younger than he is - he's trying to live down a tryst with the "fat girl" Donna, in the neighborhood. Victor has been practicing his initial sexual moves with Donna, and, in the opening scene, they are clumsy and almost endearing. Less so is the speed with which he discards Donna. He needs to score with the beautiful Judy, who he sees at the neighborhood pool.

Undaunted by her declarations that "she has a man", he begins to pursue her, but in a manner that his own vulnerabilities show through. Judy begins to relax by having him around, senses that she can trust him, decides that he can at least be the brunt of others' advances to her, if he is her man. In a funny aside, friend Melonie shows absolutely no restraint with Victor's buddy, immediately beginning a teenage love affair.
Unlike his approach to Judy, Sollett allows us to see the manner in which Victor was raised, and it is through this understanding that we are drawn to him. Arrogant in his street persona, Victor is too open to not show his own fears and insecurities. He lives with his Grandma (the delightful Altagracia Guzman) and has to share a room in their crowded flat with younger sister Vicki (Krystal Roderiguez) and youngest brother Nino (Rasuk's brother Silvestre Rasuk)- all three are adolescents. It is obvious from the get go that the friction in the family is between Victor and the irascible Vicki and Victor and his grandma.
Raised on a peaceful farm in the Dominican Republic, Grandma tries hard to get used to city life. She has a straightforward way of dealing with indiscretions by the children. She is upset when Victor and Vicki fight over the phone, and installs a lock on the phone so that no one can use it. She's at her wits end as the children get older - any small indiscretion by Victor is cause for alarm, and she puts the fear of God in him by taking him to DCF and trying to give up her right to raise him. Although she has the grace to back down from her position, she's frightened all three kids by the lengths she is willing to go for her belief that they need to be a "nice family". She's instilled Catholic rituals in them, and all three accompany her to church. There is little doubt that she's had little education, and speaks English that is heavily accented. Grandma's Achilles heel is Nino, but then, Nino is so awkward, so loving and real, that it is hard for anyone to resist him. Nino is struggling with puberty, and a humorous incident of Grandma finding him masturbating in the bathroom is made all the more so by Grandma's insistence that it must be Victor who taught him to sin.
Victor's two worlds come together by his own design. Without a thought of what Judy will think of his family, or his family will think of Judy, he invites her to dinner. The awkwardness and awareness of the emotional ties between son and family and son and lover are illustrated beautifully by Sollett in a painful scenario that surprisingly, ends well.
Even if you've not recently lived with teenagers, you can sense the passage from the confused and insecure portrayal of early adolescence (Nino and Vicki) to the street-smart, tough talking but even more vulnerable 16 and older teens (Victor and Judy). You can feel the impact of poverty on the kids, but you can also see real life, not weighted down by crime and violence. You can sense how strong bonds are formed by the merest willingness of one kid to try to understand another kid, and to talk about what they are felling. You get a sense of the strength of respect between generations in Hispanic families and the retreat that the family provides from the outside world.
Sollett, previously having won awards for a short film, "Five Feet High and Rising", gives a marvelous novella (almost a pseudo-documentary) on the story of first love, on the powerful pull of family relationships, in a simple tale about real people. I hope he never loses his ability to tell a story as the budgets he is awarded get bigger and bigger.
The camera play is a little awkward, but the sequencing, editing, choices of backdrop and small bits of music are all gems in a realistic film that was one of my Top Ten in 2003.
Those who crave action and intricate plotting, or laugh out loud comedy will not find it in "Raising Victor Vargas", a rare little coming of age film with a superb cast of unknowns.
A definite must-see; you'll love the honesty of this film.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Personal Lives of Urban Hispanic Youth 31 Aug 2003
By mirasreviews - Published on
Victor Vargas (Victor Rasuk) is a teenager from Manhattan's Lower East Side. He lives with his grandmother (Altagracia Guzman), his little brother Nino (Silvestre Rasuk) and his sister Vicki (Krystal Rodriguez). He's a nice guy. He likes to impress his friends and dole out dating advice to his younger brother. He likes a young woman from the neighborhood named Judy (Judy Marte). Judy is aloof, jaded by all the men who hit on her constantly and not interested in having a boyfriend. But Victor is persistent and does his best to be a gentleman towards her. Judy finally consents to being Victor's woman, mostly so she can tell her other suitors that she is spoken for. As she spends more time with Victor, Judy comes to like his earnest charm and considers the possibility of having a real relationship. Meanwhile, Victor's grandmother, a woman in her 70's who grew up on a farm in the Dominican Republic, is at her wits end. Her grandchildren are essentially good kids, but Nino, her favorite, is growing up, and Victor has become an independent young man. Grandma simply doesn't know how to handle the situation. Victor has to make peace with his grandmother and help her understand that they all need each other in spite of their differences.

"Raising Victor Vargas" reminds me of the "cinema verite" style of filmmaking that became fashionable in the 1960's. The film shows us a realistic slice of life and at times has a strong documentary flavor. The film's young cast is wonderful. Victor Vargas is a charismatic and sympathetic young man who makes the audience hope that he is understood by his grandmother and succeeds with his girlfriend. Writer and director Peter Sollett makes everyday events in the lives of these young Hispanic Americans interesting and poignant. Their flirtations, fears, petty squabbles, and family difficulties take on a significance not normally associated with such mundanities, perhaps because we see them so up close that their impact is amplified. "Raising Victor Vargas" does an impressive job of focusing our attention on life's details and providing a glimpse of an urban youth culture with which many of us are not familiar. Recommended.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Introducing Judy Marte 15 Sep 2005
By Andy Orrock - Published on
"Raising Victor Vargas" is a good 'little' film that demonstrates you don't need multi-multi-million dollar production and marketing budgets and Michael Bay-style execution to create a quality product. Director/writer Peter Sollett worked within an $800K budget to release a high-quality movie, one that met with critical success and was rewarded with a good run at art houses across the country. The result was a nice little $2.8m worldwide gross (Sollett's film was released in France under the fairly faithful title of "Long Way Home"). This film is an outgrowth of a short Sollett released in 2000 called "Five Feet High and Rising."

It's neat seeing brothers Victor and Silvestre Rasuk as brothers Victor and Nino - they make a very believable on-screen family unit. But the real star here is Judy Marte as Victor's love interest ('target' is more like it) "Juicy" Judy Gonzalez, a striking and talented girl who is certainly headed for greater things. One would hope that "Victor Vargas" is remembered years from now as her liftoff point. She certainly held serve in her next release - 2004's "On the Outs" - for which she was nominated as Best Female Lead by the Independent Spirit Awards.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple but sweet... 29 Dec 2003
By Eduardo Nietzsche - Published on
...and hilarious to boot, most of the time!
This is the authentic inner city, without blood splattering the lens every ten minutes, though f-words fly about once every ten seconds. If you're not hung up on the neighborhood colloquialisms, you'll love this film.
The beauty of this film is that all the characters are treated with respect and humanity, without ever getting dull or preachy. It often feels like a documentary because it's shot on location, without experienced professional actors---yet the cast does just fine, better than many familiar Hollywood faces in many Hollywood formula blockbusters.
Both romantic and comedic without ever nosediving into schmaltz, with an upbeat ending that doesn't insult your intelligence. Too bad this film didn't go into wider distribution, because its more or less universal appeal would've garnered it a far wider audience than it has found so far.
Too bad Hollywood's forgotten how to make films like this...
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Young innocent romance in idealized urban setting 2 Oct 2003
By Linda Linguvic - Published on
This 2003 independent film is about young love. It was written and directed by 26-year old Peter Sollett, and has all the earmarks of a fresh young filmmaker.
The story is simple. Victor Vargas, played by Victor Rasuk, is a teenage boy who is looking for love. He lives with his grandmother, played by Altagracia Guzman, and his younger brother and sister in a poor, but idealized neighborhood in New York City. His grandmother, who had emigrated from the Dominican Republic years before, clearly loves her grandchildren and does her best to keep the family together. However, she's a little too quick to consider them depraved simply because Victor is romancing a girl and because his younger brother, played by Silvestre Rusuk, is experimenting with is own sexuality behind closed bathroom doors. In an inspired bit of casting, these two real-life brothers look so much alike that it gives the feel of a real family.
Victor meets the girl of his dreams, Judy Marte, and they begin a romance. They are both inexperienced and it takes a while for their first kiss. There are a few twists and turns to the plot, and some obstacles which get in the way, but basically it is just a sweet love story. One of the most interesting things about the story though is that there are no guns, drugs or violent acts. They might be living in a neighborhood known for these things but yet they are all remarkably innocent.
I enjoyed the film and thought it was well done. But frankly, it was a little too simple for my personal tastes. It seemed to me like amateurs doing their best in a first film. Which, of course, is exactly what it is. I must give the film an "A" for effort though. And I look forward to watching the growth of this filmmaker.
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