Reviews since 1993: A-E F-N O-Z Posters Who We Are and Why We Do What We Do Search the Site
Now in Release
DISNEY PIXAR DVDs
IN SHORT: For the arthouse. [Rated [R], 99 minutes]
The Adventures of Sebastian Cole is one of those arthouse-centric movies that goes heavy on character development and light on big story points. Which is fine if the characters actually develop in some way. If they progress from point A to, say, Point S. If they only get as far as Point B, you're left to do all the work that the filmmakers should have done. Sebastian Cole looked to be another coming of age story but is, in actuallity, more a series of reactions by the main character to small events. Actors like pieces like this, because they get to develop Inner Worlds to work from. If they their jobs well, we don't get to see them "act". (usually a good thing). They do their jobs here, which means there wasn't enough provided in writer/director Tod William's script to satisfy me. It isn't that this is just a "small" film. It's downright tiny.
The Adventures of Sebastian Cole begins with promise. Told in flashback, we meet an upper-middle class family living life in the early 1980s. Daughter Jessica (Mami Lustig) is leaving for college. Son Sebastian (Adrian Grenier) is closing in on his last year of high school. Step-father Hank (Clark Gregg) announces that he'd rather be Mother Henrietta. Mom Joan (Margaret Colin) decides to take her son and return to her native England.
That's a great beginning. Think how you'd react to this literally life altering news. You could get angry, as Jessica does. You could meekly accept, as Joan does. You could try to deal with it, which is what Sebastian will do eight months on when he returns from England looking like an 80s version of a mod. He's got frosted hair, styled clothes, not as extreme as Flock of Seagulls but on that track.
His friends welcome him back. He finds a girlfriend, Mary. He balances his real dad (John Shea) and that family with the very masculine authority figure, who is always wearing a dress, that he lives with. While Clark Gregg makes a really ugly woman, he pulls off the transition with great skill. Indeed, his is the only character that you get a real feeling for as Hank/Henrietta makes the full move from imitating woman-hood to establishing a full identity as a woman to the final trip to the clinic for the snip snip that will permanently end one life and begin another.
Which leaves Sebastian, who has the usual rebellious streak that teenagers have. Despite the strange twist life has presented, he seems to be a fairly normal kid. He harbors ambitions to be a great adventurerer and to write of his experiences, as the young Hemingway did. While he does have what he considers to be adventures, he never writes of them. In short, just your average slightly-better-than-slacker teen.
When I first started writing this review, just after the screening, I was really prepared to dump it into arthouse hell. Now, 24 hours later, I've softened but not much. I don't consider The Adventures of Sebastian Cole to be a great flick but the performances, at minimum, were good enough to keep my attention focussed while waiting for something to happen. When that time hit, and I won't tell you what it was, it wasn't enough for me.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Adventures of Sebastian Cole, he would
Rental level. The Adventures of Sebastian Cole is strictly for the arthouse and festival circuit. If this is where you hang, this is what you'll see.
The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995 - 2016 by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, ™ their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award™(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.