A quiet, literate little teen-angst film that owes more to Catcher in the Rye than Can’t Hardly Wait, The Adventures of Sebastian Cole was a 1999 Sundance Film Festival selection and a critic’s darling that nonetheless has unfortunately remained unnoticed by the pubic-at-large.
Drive Me Crazy hunk, Adrian Granier stars as Sebastian, a Jersey boy with a most phenomenally screwed-up home life. His absentee father (John Shea) is a disapproving Yuppie dating a much younger Asian girl, his mother Joan (Margaret Colin), a British alcoholic married to a man named Hank (Clark Gregg) who announces he wants a sex change. Sebastian’s sister, Jessica (Marni Lustig) is the class valedictorian about to leave for Stanford who is dating a near-retarded musclebound hick named Troy. His grandparents are even more disapproving than his father and his friends, Jimmy and Wayne, are almost as retarded as Troy. No wonder Sebastian is a wreck.
When Joan takes off for England, Sebastian goes with her but can’t hack life in London and returns to live with Henrietta. Henrietta is understanding of Sebastian’s troublemaking when Sebastian explains he wants to be a writer and have grand adventures to base his writings on. The juvenile delinquent and the pre-operative transsexual bond, sharing an incredibly unique mother/son and father/son relationship. In the meantime, Sebastian falls for local girl, Mary (Aleksa Palladino), consummated in one of the most erotic and yet wholly innocent scenes of teenage love/lust ever filmed.
Writer-director Tod Williams commits admirably to weaving an episodic coming-of-age narrative. While he handles the relationship between Sebastian and Henrietta with remarkable sensitivity, and although rich with hilarious moments, as a complete piece, The Adventures of Sebastian Cole never quite clicks. However, stacked against the spate of teen angst cheese recently annually, this is something special.