Swaggering youth

Hating dumb high-school movies

Adventures of Sebastian Cole tells it like it is, even at the risk of boredom.

“I hate all those dumb high-school movies,” quips Sebastian during the concluding scene in Tod Williams directorial debut, The Adventures Of Sebastian Cole. He’s at his senior prom. One of his slacker friends complains that their lives are not like it is in the movies – there’s no prom queen or king, no band and no theme to the dismal affair in the school gym.

Williams has stripped his film of all these, and other, Hollywood clichés. Unfortunately, he’s replaced them with very little else. Sebastian’s adventures are rambling, episodic and, in the end, rather pointless – much like high school itself. And that’s probably Williams’ point. But it doesn’t make for a very captivating film.

Our young hero is not impressed with his particularly unfabulous life in small town, upstate New York. He pines for swashbuckling adventure.

He pulls off a series of small pranks to entertain and educate himself: saving a damsel in distress while visiting the big city of New York and later, being saved by his own damsel after drinking himself into a stupor.

Sebastian’s life gets into motion when the decision of his stepfather to undergo a sex change splits the family in two. After short stays with mom in her new home in England and his self-absorbed, playboy architect father, Sebastian decides to settle for his last year of high school back with his stepdad Hank, now Henrietta.

Clark Gregg’s portrayal of the no-nonsense transexual parent is truly remarkable. Her gender choice is really besides the point. She still has to go to work, defend herself from bigoted coworkers and set firm limits for her teenage stepson. No grief, no shame – just getting on with life, and outside of the confines of the big city, too.

I can love any film whose camera lingers endlessly on such a pretty, doe-eyed, bushy-haired boy. He swaggers through the film all Jim Morrison-like in hip-hugging leather pants, clingy, punk-rock T-shirts, flowing scarves, turned-up collars, occasional eye liner and other ’80s regalia.

But I couldn’t shake the nagging suspicion that I wouldn’t have given his character, or the film, such leeway if Adrian Grenier as Sebastian wasn’t so melt-in-your-mouth sexy. His screen presence and unforced confidence as the young Sebastian is the one true reason to see this film.

The Adventures Of Sebastian Cole is now playing.

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