The Adventures of Sabastian Cole

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Sebastian Cole (Adrian Grenier) is a 17-year-old heartthrob whose personal style reflects the bohemian influence of his European mother (Margaret Colin) and pretranssexual stepfather (Clark Gregg) and the visual impact of New Wave bands that littered MTV in the early 1980s.

With a wardrobe of military jackets, penetrating green eyes, a shock of peroxide blond in his otherwise dark hair, a cigarette dangling from his pouty lip and a lust for a writer’s life via his naive perceptions of Hemingway’s worldly adventures, Sebastian is something straight out of Catcher in the Rye or a Duran Duran video. And despite the fact that he’s the star of Tod Williams’ coming-of-age debut, he is strikingly static. He runs and rides a lot but really goes nowhere.

With the exception of a brief stint in England with his mother, the boy’s own adventures never leave the small town in upstate New York where his makeshift family fell apart and turned his mother into a cross between Elizabeth Taylor and Dudley Moore as Arthur. He sort of bounces off the rubber walls of his physical world, locked in by an underlying fear of the unknown and lack of a high school diploma.

It’s a boring existence, spiced up slightly by sex and substances, but Sebastian finds his only real thrills tearing through his high school on a bicycle – then later a motorcycle. He has a run-in with a dangerous local pimp in a motel room and tests his alcohol tolerance unsuccessfully, landing himself in the hospital. But the eyes of a horny, frustrated and idealistic teenage boy fail to see the real adventures going on around him – in the strawberry lip gloss sexuality of his girlfriend Mary (Aleska Palladino) and the impending sex-change operation that threatens to turn his paternal figure Hank into a Henrietta.

So real it hurts, the tragedy in The Adventures of Sebastian Cole doesn’t lie in some cumulative loss of innocence, but in the fact that a teenage boy has to try so hard and painfully to return to it.

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