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Victor is growing up on the Lower East Side and is at the age where he is driven by desire and unchained by maturity. His image as a ladies man is shattered when he is found in Fat Donna's bedroom. Soon, as a result of his sister's big mouth, the whole Dominican community knows. Full of confidence, Victor sets out to reclaim his image by winning Judy. Judy proves to be elusive and difficult. Victor persists, and with a surprising tenderness, ultimately wins Judy's heart.Written by
If I had known this movie was about teen sex I never would have gone. Fortunately, I didn't, because I would have missed a rather remarkable film at Sundance. Raising Victor Vargas is about a non-traditional Hispanic family in New York's lower east side. Victor Vargas is a hormonally charged teenager with one thing on his mind. (If we believe the film, every young male in Spanish Harlem is preoccupied with similar thoughts.)
Then Victor meets Judy. Unable to make a sexual conquest, the relationship develops into something more meaningful for both of them. It is this process of discovery which is so encouraging and uplifting, as Victor learns, with the help of a firm and loving (if sometimes misguided) grandmother, a deeper set of values-genuine caring, friendship and family. As his façade of cultural expectations wears off, the vulnerable but inherently well-meaning Victor emerges with a more mature outlook, strengthened principles and firmer moral grounding. You might argue that the transition is a bit forced and happens too suddenly. Nevertheless, it is cause for celebration.
This is not to say that the movie is a propaganda piece for pre-marital abstinence. There is enough promiscuity to make parents think twice about letting their teens see the film. But the over-riding theme of the movie builds the case that the sexual preoccupation of youth is selfish and immature.
Director Peter Sollett employed inexperienced actors with an improvisational style, and managed to elicit extraordinarily real and believable performances from Victor Rasuk (Victor) and Judy Marte (Judy). By focussing intently on the individual, and encouraging freedom of expression, Sollett is able to capture truth on film, without too much embellishment. He takes us to a world where we expect to find despair, and leaves us with hope and faith in the spirit of youth.
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