Raising Victor Vargas Peter Sollett

Raising Victor Vargas Peter Sollett
Casting non-actors in starring roles is always a gamble. Casting child non-actors in starring roles can be tantamount to insanity. Fortunately for Cannes prize winner Raising Victor Vargas, first-time feature director Sollett has found a charismatic teenage lead who knows how to be himself in front of the camera. That is, a skinny, insecure kid that just wants to make it out of adolescence in one piece. Victor (Victor Rasuk) lives in the gritty barrio of New York's Lower East Side. If he isn't fighting with his precocious preteen sister, he's schooling his younger brother about girls or keeping his stupefied grandmother at bay. When he's ridiculed for fooling around with local joke "Fat" Donna, a panicked Victor sets out to restore his (only in his mind) reputation as the neighbourhood Don Juan. He and his buddy spy neighbourhood Latina beauty "Juicy" Judy (Judy Marte) at the local swimming pool and Victor sets out on a seemingly futile quest to win her heart and save face. To his delight, Judy soon declares him her man, but what Victor doesn't know is that Judy has an ulterior motive as: he is merely "bug spray" to get the creeps that constantly molest her in the streets to back off. Amazingly, almost all the kids in Raising Victor Vargas hit the perfect pitch between refreshing naiveté and natural screen talent. The standouts are Marte as Judy, and her best friend, played by Melonie Diaz. It's impressive how Sollett, who adapted the screenplay from his own short Five Feet High and Rising, manages to form such complex and fresh female adolescent characters in such little screen time. The movie is simple — almost too much so at times — but Marte and Rasuk share a disarming chemistry. Neither was ever given a script, relying instead on improvisation techniques; the tactic makes sense. Why rehearse to achieve an awkward first teenage kiss? That's the stuff of documentary. (Seville)