More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 24%
Average: 8%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

5 reviews, 45 user ratings

Latest Reviews

Hot Water (2021) by Erik Childress

Day of the Beast, The by Jay Seaver

Transference: A Love Story by Erik Childress

Thunder Force by Peter Sobczynski

Voyagers by Peter Sobczynski

Flaming Brothers by Jay Seaver

French Exit by Lybarger

Perdita Durango by Jay Seaver

Godzilla vs. Kong by Peter Sobczynski

Charlatan by Jay Seaver

subscribe to this feed

Raising Victor Vargas
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Collin Souter

"Real Men Have Flaws"
4 stars

There’s a moment in “Raising Victor Vargas” where the film’s titular hero buys a toy figure that pops out of a gumball machine for the woman he has fallen in love with. It’s a small action figure that happens to be in a wheelchair. “This dude is in a wheelchair,” she says with slight disappointment. “No,” he says. “This is one of the good guys. This is a dude on wheels.” The scene says a lot about how people view Victor Vargas, an Hispanic teenager living in New York’s Lower East Side, and how Victor sees himself in terms of his relationship to women. Emotionally handicapped, but sure of himself nonetheless. It’s all in the way you look at things, I guess.

“Raising Victor Vargas” tells the story of Victor (Victor Rasuk) and his family, which consists of himself, his teenage younger brother Nino (real-life brother Silvestre Rasuk), their pre-teen half-sister Vicki (Melonie Diaz) and their ever-watchful and protective Grandma (Altagracia Guzman) and how each one’s coming of age brings chaos and disorder to the family unit. Or at least, that’s how Grandma sees it. Directed by first-timer Peter Sollett, the movie has a fresh, vibrant feel to it that gives its characters room to breathe and be themselves. The best part: Nobody wears out their welcome.

Victor Vargas is a teenager ready to lose his virginity, but a mis-hap that takes place early in the movie sends his reputation in the neighborhood on a downward spiral. Cursed as the guy who had sex with “the ugly fat chick,” Victor wants to redeem himself. He sets his sights on neighborhood beauty “Juicy” Judy (Judy Marte) and doesn’t hesitate to flex his charm when trying to ask her out. His best friend, meanwhile, asks out Judy’s best friend. Neither of them has an interest of either of these two guys.

But Judy has a younger brother, Carlos (Wilfree Vasquez) who has an interest in Victor’s younger sister, Vicki. Victor uses this to his advantage by helping the kid get a date with his sister so that Victor can get closer to Judy. Victor apologizes for coming on too strong to Judy and she accepts him, but only to use him to ward off the idiots who gawk at and harass her. “Think of him as bug spray,” she later justifies.

Eventually, a mutual respect grows between Victor and Judy and the movie becomes less and less about sex and more about intimacy. Nino tries to get advice on the opposite sex from his now-infamous brother, but all Victor can do is show him how to properly lick his lips. Vicki, not the most sociable girl in the neighborhood, finds herself trying to shoo away an admirer, but to no avail. Everything happens under the watchful eye of Grandma, who tries to send Victor to the authorities for being nothing but a bad influence. Here, the movie becomes less about first love and more about family ties.

But “Raising Victor Vargas” possesses many universal themes. Victor finds that he loves Judy because he needs to, not because he needs her. He finds that he in fact does have the insight and the bravery to be a human being and not the stud he wants to be known as. He invites Judy to eat dinner with him and his family as a show of faith to his Grandma that Judy means a lot to him. He also wants Judy to see all of who he is, warts and all. Victor Vargas simply wants to be known and loved. His Grandma loves him, sure, but will probably never really know him or her other grandchildren, even though they live so tightly together with wafer-thin walls. In the end, “Raising Victor Vargas” is about the need for privacy and intimacy coupled with the desperate need to express one’s self.

This is one of those great movies where you just sit back and wonder how it came to be made. Just how does one make a movie with a non-professional cast in their natural surroundings and make it feel as though the audience is eavesdropping? The performances are across-the-board pitch-perfect because they don’t feel like performances. They feel like life. There is an equal amount of charm and sadness that lurks within each and every one of these people. The Grandma, in particular, has such a lifeforce on screen that even though she does a horrible thing by trying to get rid of Victor, we admire her intention more than we condemn her for her action. Our heart actually goes out to her, in a way.

The only problem I have with the movie is a minor one and one that many first-time directors try and attempt. There seems to be a feeling amongst newcomers that one of the best ways for a movie to feel in-the-moment and realistic is by shaking the camera so that the movie will feel more like a documentary. “Raising Victor Vargas” is already so real it doesn’t need this tactic. It doesn’t do it constantly, but there are moments when one wishes they would just invest in a tri-pod. I suppose that on the set and through the lens, it doesn’t appear to be that jarring, but when blown up to the big screen, it can be a bit of a burden (I felt the same way about “Roger Dodger”).

No matter. “Raising Victor Vargas” has so much going for it, a few jittery camera moves won’t distract you that much. For a movie about a horny teenager, it has such an amazing feel of innocence about it. Every character is experiencing a form of love for the first time. For Victor, it’s intimate instead of physical. For Nino, it’s an awakening of his physicality. For Vicki, it’s the start of what could lead to a first kiss. And for Grandma, it’s a rude awakening for her when she tries to keep these feelings and events repressed in the name of tradition. Her love for her Grandchildren must change and start anew, but with deeper understanding. And for director Sollett, it’s the first of what promises to be a very fruitful and exciting career. The wheels will take him far.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 04/29/03 22:50:47
[printer] printer-friendly format  
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

9/07/08 Mariel this movie was great, it really shows how Victor, myself, and other latinas really grew up. 5 stars
10/29/06 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
3/20/05 Tay Very realistic portrayal of the issues and of being a teenager in the innercity 4 stars
11/15/04 Shana Put it Back on T.V. B\C. I would watch it over & over again! 5 stars
9/28/04 Dieyi01 great movie...loved to see new faces in film 5 stars
9/26/04 Tor Honolulu More like a docu than anything; I've never seen such natural acting by kids that age 5 stars
7/13/04 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
4/07/04 Belinda Melonie Diaz did not play the pre-teen half sister. She was Judy's best friend. 4 stars
3/14/04 y2mckay Much more depth in this film than the video box plot synopsis can impart. 4 stars
12/31/03 Peter I loved every character in the film. They had a natural relationship with each other . 5 stars
10/09/03 aye one of the best films of 2003 so far 5 stars
9/22/03 melanie victor soOo banggin.. if he ever read dis.. holla at my screen name- xxghetochinitaxx lol!! 5 stars
9/08/03 Dede This film was AWESOME!!! It was so true to life and didn't seem fake. I would recommend it! 5 stars
9/06/03 Gabby Longoria It was a good movie and he is cute. 5 stars
8/20/03 miranda I really liked these characters-one of my favorite movies this year 5 stars
7/07/03 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
6/10/03 Daniel p Realistic portryal of a hispanic family and a teenagers first love, excellent. 5 stars
6/07/03 Enrica I love this movie, it is so real that I can really relate to it. I love it! 5 stars
6/06/03 Amy I loved the way this movie was filmed and how real the people are. 5 stars
6/05/03 Kim True to life. Amazing! 5 stars
6/02/03 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
5/16/03 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
5/07/03 Smorgy I loved these characters! Very real. 5 stars
5/05/03 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
4/26/03 Mitch Wonderful 4 stars
4/25/03 Tony Great of the best I've seen in the last few years. 5 stars
4/22/03 Barry Eskandani Real! Beautiful! Authentic! Sexy! 5 stars
4/22/03 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
4/20/03 sMASH bOOGIE i saw "FIve Feet High and Rising" back when and i think their acting improved 5 stars
4/19/03 Lois Eltman Warm, realistic, charming, unpretentious and refreshing! 5 stars
4/18/03 Carmen It was a wonderful experience!! 5 stars
4/16/03 oberon loved it, loved the rusak boys... 5 stars
4/12/03 carole jones Absolutely wonderful. very real. At the end I felt like I wanted to cry. 5 stars
3/30/03 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
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  28-Mar-2003 (R)
  DVD: 24-Aug-2004



Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast