Alice M. Lee
September 05, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

With his shock of wild hair, sexed-up swagger, and overheated pickup lines, Victor (Rasuk) is a self-styled teen ”playa” searching for conquests on the sweltering summer streets of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. He cuts a comic figure — mainly because we suspect he’s more talk than action. So does ”Juicy” Judy (Marte), the wary object of his affections. In his feature debut, writer-director Peter Sollett subtly captures the sweetly awkward ways in which the two learn to love by letting down their defenses, and unravels the everyday dynamics of Victor’s relationship with his close-knit but contentious family. Eschewing coming-of-age cliches and inner-city-Latino caricatures, Sollett’s work of gentle grace radiates authenticity. EXTRAS Sadly, nada. And with acting this good, any insight into how the performances of the nonprofessional cast were shaped would have been welcome.

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