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Raising Victor Vargas - Preview & US reaction



Preview by: Jack Foley

IT'S been described as a 'film brimming with warm-hearted comedy' by the New York Post and a 'delicate and altogether satisfying romantic comedy' by the New York Times, and has opened to considerable acclaim in selected cinemas in the States.

Raising Victor Vargas is another of those independent movies that sounds like terrific fun but, which like most smaller films nowadays, may slip into UK cinemas unnoticed upon its release some time this year. Let's hope not.

The plot concerns Victor Rasuk's streetwise, 16-year-old playboy, Victor Vargas, a Dominican boy, growing up on New York's Lower East Side, who finds his reputation under threat when he starts dating an unpopular and overweight girl (played by Donna Maldonado), who happens to live two storeys above his grandmother's apartment (where he lives, with his brother and sister).

In a bid to get his credibility back, however, he sets his sights on Judy Marte's 'Juicy' Judy Rodriguez, the most beautiful girl at the local swimming pool, only to find that appearances can be deceptive and that the path towards true love seldom runs smooth.

Raising Victor Vargas is directed by Peter Sollett, who won the Jury Prize for Short Filmmaking at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival with Five Feet High and Rising. In fact, Victor Vargas is sort of a sequel to Rising, as it also features Victor Rasuk as a 12-year-old.

In addition to the acclaim it drew from both the Cannes Film Festival (where it received its world premiere last year) and this year's Sundance Film Festival (always a great baromete of success for the year's indie hits), Victor Vargas' romantic tale has also taken the Grand Special Prize at the 2002 Deauville Film Festival and the Made in Spanish Award at the 2002 San Sebastian International Film Festival.

Not bad for a movie which was made on a tight budget of a mere $800,000, on 16mm, film during the summer of 2001 in New York City.

What the US critics had to say...

E! Online leads the way, awarding it a B+ and writing that it 'strips characters of their ghetto-tough facades to reveal the pain and uncertainty of a very difficult age', while Film Journal International felt that it 'ensnares you in all the pimpled humor and humiliation of adolescence'.

Hollywood Reporter, meanwhile, described it as 'sweet in ways both comic and insightful', while Premiere referred to it as 'a joy to watch and entirely successful on its own terms', before awarding it the maximum four out of four.

Rolling Stone, meanwhile, described it as 'a coming-of-age movie that really nails it', awarding it three out of four and adding that 'writer-director, Peter Sollett, takes the familiar and turns it into hot, heartfelt movie magic'.

Slant Magazine, meanwhile, hailed it for being 'so uniquely and blazingly authentic', while the New York Times felt that 'the Vargas casting is magical'.

The New York Daily News awarded it two and a half out of four and said that it 'features a wealth of raw talent'.

Indielondon will deliver its verdict when the movie is released in the UK.

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