Sunday, November 20, 2011

Neglected Gem #8: The Adventures of Sebastian Cole (1998)

It’s a funny thing about movies. They may get critical acclaim, even score some box office success and years later they’re barely mentioned by anyone or even remembered. And there’s often no discernible reason for their fates. I really can’t tell why Neil Jordan’s terrific and accessible heist movie The Good Thief, which got good reviews when it came out in 2002, has pretty much vanished into the ether. Or why Steve Jordan’s powerful documentary Stevie (2002) failed to match the impact of his earlier 1994 doc Hoop Dreams. Or even why The Lord of the Rings’s Peter Jackson’s mock 1995 documentary Forgotten Silver didn’t become the cult hit it should have been. In any case, here is the latest entry in a series of disparate movies you really ought to see.

Adrian Grenier in The Adventures of Sebastian Cole
The Adventures of Sebastian Cole is a real find, a debut filled with unpredictable characters, an original point of view and fearlessness in both subject matter and the depiction of everyday small-town life. The titular character (Adrian Grenier, Entourage) is an aimless, modern-day Holden Caulfield, minus the cynicism. He is equally unhappy, though, mourning the sudden disintegration of his family, torn asunder when stepfather Hank (Clark Gregg) announces his intention to become a woman. Dragged to England by his bitter British mother (Margaret Colin), who has begun to drink too much, he's returned home to live with Hank/Henrietta, an arrangement that is a mixed blessing for both.

Writer/director Tod Williams doesn't push the story so much as let it unfold. He takes a chance in mixing moods, but the dominant tone is quirky satire worthy of John Irving (The World According to Garp) and just as strikingly unique.

Shlomo Schwartzberg is a film critic, teacher and arts journalist based in Toronto . He teaches regular courses at Ryerson University's LIFE Institute, where he is currently teaching a course on the work of Steven Spielberg. Also on Monday Oct. 17, he began teaching Genre Movies at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre

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