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In June, 1983, in Dutchess County, New York, Sebastian Cole joins his mother, step-father, and sister for dinner. Hank, Sebastian's step-father, drops a bomb: he announces he's changing sexes. Sebastian's sister splits immediately for California, and his mother takes him back to England. Jump ahead eight months, Sebastian is back in New York, knocking on Hank's door. Hank (now Henrietta, although all the surgeries aren't complete) takes Sebastian in and is his rock over the next few months of high school. Sebastian's "adventures" are mostly self-destructive. Written by
I like the Adventures of Sebastian Cole, but I'm still trying out to figure whether there was a point to the whole thing. For me, it just plays out as an amusing string of events with characters passing in and out, with little of pithy moral messages meant to inspire the coming-of-age Sebastian.
Adrien Grenier (hubba! hubba!) portrays the idle Sebastian Cole, an aspiring writer (or so he says) who comes from a pretty strange family setting. The movie opens up with Sebastian in a car crash in the middle of the desert somewhere, and he's discovered by a young Spanish woman who cleans up his pretty nast wounds. She asks him of the whereabouts of his family, and he stares into a family photo, which sets up the flashback which becomes the adventures of Sebastian Cole.
Flashback to the boonies of New York, 1983 (get a load of the clothes). Sebastian's family is kind of a scattered one. His mother is married to a wealthy, charismatic, but absentee father. When his stepfather, Hank (Clark Gregg doing a fine job as the likable, level-headed Hank), who is mother is presently married to (at the time of the introduction) announces his plans to become a woman, things get turned upside down and everyone exhibits their own various release. The sister takes off with a creepy guy named Troy and goes through several strange appearance alterations as some sort of acting out. Sebastian's mother (now Hank's ex-wife), takes off for England and basically separates herself entirely from Hank during his transition. Sebastian is the only one to stick by Hank side, somewhat reluctantly at first as he appears understandably uneasy about the situation.
So, Sebastian has to stick it out in this desolate town that Hank lives in now. It's less about him having any sort of Kerouac adventures that may inspire some good writing, and more about simply drifting around and engaging in one situation after another. Things just sort of happen, but nothing really important. Just an amusing string of events inflicted upon Cole. It may be more entertaining had Sebastian, as a character, been less egotistical and too-cool-to-move and more of an interesting character with more appreciable qualities that might give Cole's experiences some kind of meaning. Without such qualities, he's more like an existentialist. Nothing really matters to him. Just get through school and get out of town. And then what? Who knows.
The better part of the movie occurs during the transactions between Cole and Hank, or really anyone and Hank, since he is the more interesting character with more to say, although we really don't see him doing much. To me, Hank should've been the main character, though the sex change operation matters should not consume the whole story had this been the way things are. But, he seems like such a personable guy, something we can take away from. Maybe the only character we can, while the rest seem to float in and out of the story. Sebastian's life appears to be nothing more than adolescent listlessness. His parents seem like trashy figures, especially the grandparents who don't seem to acknowledge their grandson as anything more than a physical occupation of space. They're really quite awful, and I suppose, Sebastian was rebelling against all that. But in a way that showed no purpose. Sort of, as to say, I'll do the opposite of anything structured I've learned. It doesn't matter what I do, so long as it is the opposite. In the end, not only is there no purpose, but it's only entertaining as far as watching a couple of days pass in the life of a somewhat eccentric, totally egotistical teenager.
The family element occupies a lot of the story, and seems to be one of the themes that are most predominant (if not the only one), epitomized by the fact that Sebastian's family setting is so bizarre (split even further as the film continues) and the final scene with the Spanish family back in the desert as the flashback closes.
Teenagers who aren't so stupid as to be unable to handle the plot about Hank's/Henrietta's transition from male to female would probably enjoy this movie for simply being the strange story of a young boy's wild time in Nowheres, U.S.A. Grenier in interesting enough to pull that off, and gain that appeal. It's still entertaining, even if the focus of the whole thing doesn't matter much, or doesn't try too hard to make itself known (as a result of the writing). Though, judging from the use of Blank Generation during the finale motorcyle run through the halls, the song speaks to why Sebastian acts the way he does. And his friends as well. Basically, everything is crap. He's not like his mother or his wealthy father (listen to the different advice his father and Hank give him on his birthday). Hank is more down to earth, more genuine, while everyone else Sebastian knows just seems to be so wrapped up in themselves (and Sebastian is guilty of this, too) and in total worthlessness. They all seem to be running in circles. Hank seems like the only refreshing departure of this.
Everyone does a fine acting job. Russell Harper, as always, was one of my favorite characters, aside from Gregg. Gabriel Macht, who plays Troy, reminds me of Matthew Modine's character, Wooderson, from Dazed and Confused. Except, Troy is hopelessly idiotic and so in love with himself in ways Wooderson could never be.
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