A self-styled teenage Romeo, from Manhattan's Lower East Side, is bent on seducing a girl who appears to be well beyond his reach. However, his reputation for seduction, along with the fact that he lives with his grandmother and bothersome brother in a tiny tenement, complicate his plans.
Don't be put off by the vague, sitcom-ish title; this film is a true find, a picture with a vital daffiness that's all its own, rather that a film that lives on the leavings of other movies. The 16-year-old Victor (Victor Rasuk) is all teenage assertion, but his machismo has training wheels. In Peter Sollett's delicate and altogether satisfying romantic comedy, it's Victor's puffed-rice pride that always gets him into trouble. Pride is a tricky subject to make a film about. Part of what will leave you taking in all of the delights of "Vargas" with open-mouthed wonder comes from the director's surefooted navigating of the way pride bounces around a small, packed household. Victor lives in a tiny apartment with his family, including his stubborn, salt-of-the-earth grandmother (Altagracia Guzman). Things get complicated when Victor starts chasing the swan-like Judy (Judy Marte) and the whole world gets involved. In the larger world, this stuff might not add up to a hill of beans, but Mr. Sollett treats the emotional shifts in the Vargas household like the movement of tectonic plates; each change rocks the characters lives. — Elvis Mitchell
2003-03-26 | Elvis Mitchell | Read the New York Times Review of Raising Victor Vargas