There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Admirers of this film’s protagonista group that definitely includes writer-director Peter Sollettfind his adolescent bravado charming. “He’s who I would have liked to have been at that age,” 27-year-old Sollett has said of 16-year-old Victor Vargas (Victor Rasuk), a would-be womanizer who prowls the Lower East Side’s Dominican-expat community. Yet it seems unlikely that Victor Vargas will grow up to be a filmmakeror anything else remarkable. When he comes on to Judy (Judy Marte) at the neighborhood pool, she rejects him as too forward. But he’s also tiresome, and that doesn’t change when Judy decides to give him another chance. Indeed, the film becomes more interesting only as its focus gradually expands beyond its title character. For his second run at Judy, Victor recruits her little brother Carlos (Wilfree Vasquez) to make a formal introduction. In exchange, Carlos demands to meet Victor’s little sister Vicki (Krystal Rodriguez). Meanwhile, Victor’s friend Harold (Kevin Rivera) charms Judy’s friend Melonie (Melonie Diaz), and Victor’s younger brother Nino (Silvestre Rasuk), inflamed by all this fumbling flirtation, discovers masturbation. He doesn’t end up getting intimate with a pie, but Nino’s onanistic experimentsand the outraged reaction of the Vargas kids’ only parental figure, an old-school grandmother (Altagracia Guzman)are the stuff of mainstream teen comedies. Ultimately, Victor becomes a sensitive guywhich doesn’t make dramatic sense but allows himand usto spend more time with Judy, the film’s most appealing character. Developed with the help of the Sundance Institute, Raising Victor Vargas features handheld camera, available-light photography, and a lot of awkward adolescent lip movements. But the most naturalistic thing about Sollett’s low-budget first feature is that it’s a little dull. Mark Jenkins