The Adventures of Sebastian Cole (1998) Poster

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written and directed well
dreaming200130 October 2001
The film is criticized for not going anywhere, but I think this is because some critics can't handle a storyline that doesn't have an action-based, simplified plot. The story is coherent and flows well. There is no wasted time - small moments are significant. The visual symbolism (such as the arrow that falls between Sebastian and Mary) is fantastic, as is the dialogue. There is no empty imagery.

Many films rely too much of the visual element. The writing was great, and so was the camera work. And the acting. Bravo to the whole crew.

I hope that Tod Williams is in it for the long haul and writes _and_ directs more work of his own, and soon. If someone out there knows him and thinks he needs an ego boost on a bad day, please pass this along.
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What is high school REALLY like?
Klickberg9 January 2000
A comical and realistic view of the real world of high school without all that American Pie/She's All That crap about just capitalizing off of what kids WISHED their high school life was like. This truly was a movie that had everything in it: great wit, great drama, a great plot, great music, and great acting. If the distributor had only allowed it to more theaters, it would have surely been more of a success as most people HEARD it was good, but were not able to see it since it was only released in a few places for a few days. Kudos to Tod Williams.
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There's only one good thing about this film.
llihilloh22 July 2002
I expected a lot more out of this film. The preview looked interesting so I decided to check it out. Bottom line is that "The Adventures of Sebastian Cole" only had one decent thing: Adrian Grenier.

I really like Grenier and found his performance to be very pleasing. The character is designed well, but everything else sort of just drifts along through the duration of the movie. Clark Gregg is really good, but I don't think that his character was explained too well. I mean there's not too much to explain; he wants to become a woman. Still, something was missing.

The obvious low budget of the film was nice to see. I enjoyed that the movie was filmed on just a script (a bad one at that) and just a few actors. It was a nice change.

While the main idea of the film was actually okay, it became disappointing to see a lot of scenes that had nothing to do with it just thrown in here and there. Like I said, the script looked promising and I must say that I was interested where director Tod Williams was headed, but it was basically a very slow movie with not too good of dialogue.

"Sebastian" started to look good towards the end, but again, it fell right back down into a hole. The acting was mostly good, the writing is in need of some work, yet the budget of the film helped it out in the long run.

I would recommend this to someone if they wanted to watch a quiet movie with a strong lead character, but other than that I would stay away. Personally, I wouldn't watch it twice.
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If you're looking for something different in a sea of "American Pie's," check this one out.
tinkerbella31 March 2005
There are some that love this movie, and there are some that hate it with the fire of a thousand suns. True, this movie isn't for everyone, but if you're like me, it might possibly become one of your favorites of all time. I'm a big 80s junky, I love all the classics, from John Hughes to Cameron Crowe, and I always thought they just don't make teenage movies like the ones from yesteryear anymore. Then came Sebastian Cole. It looked and felt like a film picked straight out of the Golden Age, back in the 80s when teen movies were in their prime. The film was a timeless, edgy, and original take on something we've all seen before: the coming of age story. The title character, Sebastian, is endearing, and though the plot can get a bit slow at times, you're always interested in where his life is leading next during the course of the story. His relationships with his sister, his friends, his girlfriend, and his stepfather all pan out beautifully and by the end, you feel like you know these people. If you're looking for something new and different in a sea of "American Pie's", you should definitely check this movie out.
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Subtlety and sincerity and a great sense of time and place
ryates1 February 2001
Rarely does a film capture with any kind of authenticity the subtleties of the qualities of a particular time and place. When it does so it is something that can be appreciated not for standing out from the story but for becoming integral to the fabric of the narrative. The "Adventures of Sebastian Cole" achieves this rare unity of time, place, character and story and it does so in the most unassuming way. The atmosphere of Sebastian's world is undeniably one of normalcy and yet it is also undeniably beautiful and rich with possibilities for anything. In this world even the smallest of pleasures, the smallest of adventures takes on a sublime quality and seems ready to infect the future of the character with an understanding and appreciation of his youth. We can appreciate everything about this story for being small and unassuming and yet alive. Sebastian's confusion and "posing" seem somehow sincere and he remains likeable as the protagonist. As the story unfolds, watching Sebastian Cole lead his life of adventure, no one could possibly feel unable to identify. There is something very genuine in the story and lives of the characters. At the same time there is a deep sense of loss, of delusion, of dislocation. There is something intangible about this film, something that goes beyond story and plot. The characters are both likeable and despicable. The acting is almost flawless and a pleasure to watch, Clark Gregg is never over the top in his role as Hank/Henrietta. There is very little moralizing, very little hitting over the head with a message. The story is presented as a slice of life and we are allowed to fill in the blanks and make judgments for ourselves. It is, overall, a film that reminds you a life is always a complicated, disappointing and wonderful thing and always what you make it.
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Quirky, Touching Coming-of-Age
gbheron7 May 2002
Coming of age in a dysfunctional family has been worked and overworked in recent years, but "The Adventures of Sebastian Cole" presents a somewhat different slant on the story. It also contains characters that are not written as "can-you-top-this?" stereotypes: the clueless fathers, slut stepmothers, stormtrooper school administrators, you've seen them over and over. In this movie, the focal relationship between stepfather and teenage son is rather realistic and touching, even though the stepfather is in the process of changing his sex. Quirky, yes, very much so, but nonetheless the characters have a natural charm that is missing from many films of this genre. This is not an A-list movie with high production values, but I recommend it when in the mood for something a tad different.
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From the diaries of a teenage loser -- Forgettable!
mdm-118 October 2004
This should be re-named "Everybody Loves Sebastian". The 1983 rural go-nowhere town high school junior (or senior? - they seemed to flip flop on that one) with weird hair and "Leo-like" good looks has a big plate full of issues. His step-dad announces definite plans to have a sex-change operation, upon which his mom calls the marriage quits; Sebastian is called the "f" word by everyone and their mother, all-the-while "kissing around" with various girls, getting high on Ready-Whip at a supermarket, and saving a "strawberry" prostitute from the clutches of her ruthless pimp.

Sebastian's "buddies" make Eddie Haskal look like a choir boy; bad association doesn't get much worse. Sebastian seems to go for "Harold's" suicide attempts record (although he won't admit suicidal tendanccies). For no apparent reason the genius level SAT scoring Sebastian MUST graduate a year early, although he has no clue about the future, nor does he want to attend college (what gives with this nonsense?).

This film is a look into a few weeks in the life of someone who is PRETTY MESSED UP. The final scene suggests that things will be alright, although the HOW is left entirely up to the viewer.

The makers of this film seem to bank solely on the undisputed appeal of the very attractive male lead. The "story" leaves a lot to be desired. Looking for "what will this gorgeous kid do next...?" doesn't exactly satisfy. The lackluster production values just don't measure up to other films, independent or otherwise. A low budget and weak story need more than a pretty face to carry it through. The "results" of this project are forgettable and an insult to intelligent cinema fans.
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The Story of a Rebel Teenager With an Original Screenplay
claudio_carvalho13 November 2003
Sebastian Cole (Adrian Grenier) is a teenager of seventeen years old, living in a small town with his mother Joan Cole (Margaret Colin), his stepfather Hank (Clark Gregg) and his sister Jessica (Marni Lustig). His father Hartley (John Shea) is an architect and his grandparents are persons very traditional, conservatives and arrogant. One day, his stepfather gathers the family and informs that he will make an operation for changing his sex. This communication is enough to leave the members of the family astonished and break the structure of the family. Jessica decides to leave home immediately with her boyfriend. Joan decides to move to England with Sebastian. A few months later, Sebastian decides to come back to USA and to live with his stepfather, now called Henriette. He joins the high school and becomes a very rebel teenager, certainly affected by the whole situation, shocking the elders in most of his attitudes. This low budget and independent movie has a very original screenplay. The excellent cast and direction are sharp. The story is not indicated for all audiences, but the viewer who appreciates a different story will have the chance to watch a good movie. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "Febre de Viver" ("Fever of Living"
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Semi-uneven, yet meaningful family drama
vidalia1524 December 2001
Sebastian Cole stars Adrien Grenier (Drive Me Crazy) as a teen struggling to come to grips with his father's transsexualism.

Director Tod Williams maintains a nice semi-comedic, yet always surefooted tone, which keeps the film grounded, yet also prevents it from becoming too serious.

Grenier too often reminds us of a run-of-the-mill wise street-kid type, not too dissimilar from his role in Drive Me Crazy. Yet, he is effective in both films and has considerable appeal.

The film is at times uneven as we follow the antics of Grenier, along with his longtime buddies, his "girlfriend" Mary, and the rest of his family. Yet, the movie does a good job in its depiction of several disparate family members trying to cope with a family crisis.

Despite a vague ending and the occasional unevenness mentioned above, the film is worth seeing for its honesty and candid portrayal of a father struggling with his sexuality and how it affects the family unit.

Far from flawless, yet ultimately convincing.
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Interesting but ultimately a let down
mlkofkim2 January 2001
This well regarded (critically) movie seemed very promising as a character study of young Sebatian Cole and his Step "father/mother", the pre-op transexual Hank/Henrietta. While there certainly were interesting issues and very well acted roles the film is ultimately let down by its own story line and character.

We come to seriously dislike Sebastian, our "hero". He goes from an engaging young man who is lost but obviously intelligent to a young punk who makes decisions for himself and his life that are totally illogical and out of character. Very well acted by Adrian Grenier but sadly unlovable.

Hank's character is the one we come to enjoy and admire. In a rough rural area to chose to become a woman is a unique and obviously dangerous decision, especially when you take into account his wife and her 2 children. A courageous decision that doesn't appear to detract from Hank's/Henrietta's very strong morality and view of what is ruight or wrong in life.

A bold attempt of a movie but by the end I just didn't care.

Try again.
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A good film with very good development
Ankhenaten9128 July 2006
What can be said for a movie that is truly original. The movie has a basic premise, a coming of age story. But it is so much more than that. Sebastian is a warm character who you believe in because he actually exists in real life. His father figure Hank/Henritta is a positive influence in his life and you can't help but like how well the movie progresses. It is has a good script with nice character development and dialog. I remember seeing this movie when I was 19 and thinking about how great a personality Adrian Grenier had back then. Also keep an ear out for some really great period music from the early 80-'s I highly recommend this movie.
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Hilarious, Moving, and Pure Entertainment!
filmchaser27 January 2013
I wish there were more films like this one. I've watched this film 3 times and love it. The acting was outstanding. Gabriel Macht was seriously obnoxious as a smirking, leather bound, boyfriend of Sebatian's older sister. Clark Greg was deadpan hilarious even though he wasn't trying to be. Greg was so committed to his role as a transsexual but never gave his role a stereotypical performance, but stayed true to his character's process of transitioning from man to woman. Grenier played an inquisitive, adventurous teenager with subtlety and sincerity. The film was indeed an adventure for all involved. It moved from one adventure to another without dragging, and even though the performance of the actors created a comedic feel to the film, the film explored very serious issues. The ending surprised and affected me for a very long time afterward. This film was very underrated, but is a delightful little sleeper that all involved should be very proud of.
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Uneven character piece, that lacks likable characters...
UmarifficCKzzle7 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The Adventures of Sebastian Cole is about a boy named Sebastian (Adrian Grenier) who fancies himself becoming a writer at some point, given he actually puts effort into it. This movie is presumably the years where he gets his material for writing, the adventure years, hence the title and the previous quote. In it we experience the very typical coming of age stories and warnings of loves, drugs, and sex...changes. Yeah, there's a slight twist here that is very interesting, and that is that Sebastian's step dad (Clark Gregg) very early on makes a rough decision to get a sex-change that has a huge impact on Sebastian's family and his relationship with his step-dad.

Clark Gregg plays Hank/Henrietta, Sebastian's step-father and is very good in the part, very believable without being over the top, which is a route this film could've taken rather easily. Thankfully they didn't. Adrien Grenier, who I'm only familiar with from Entourage, is also very good in his part as Sebastian, and together, he and Gregg have a great relationship on screen. It's always quite engaging to watch these guys (?) relationship as it develops and is genuinely heartbreaking at times.

And that's the best of what this film has to offer. Unfortunately, it brings with it some mediocre camera work, direction, and cinematography. It's not bad, but it's a far cry from being good, or memorable in the slightest. The characters are also thinly written, and it's clear from the get go how most of the arcs will pan out. The only truly fascinating character through and through is Clark Gregg's Hank/Henrietta. I've already said Grenier did well acting-wise, but the character of Sebastian is not only not engaging, but is completely unlikeable. I don't honestly see why anyone in the audience would route for his character in anything he does. He mopes, whines, cheats, lies, and lacks any aspirations other than to be a complete slacker. It'd be different if he was maybe a side-character or comic relief, but to have him as the main focus and to be asked to take the character seriously? Come on.

And I don't really hold it against this film, but I just want to say...pick a different song in all these films, Hollywood! No more "Where Is My Mind" by the Pixies, we all know it's a good song, stop using it in every other film!

I feel like I could just keep tearing more and more of this film apart, but in all honesty I didn't hate it. I just didn't really care for it, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. The Adventures of Sebastian Cole isn't a bad or boring film, it's just not a very good or engaging one either. It's very uneven and the script could've used quite a bit of work. I guess the point of the film is to be a loose sort of look at the life of a writer before he made it, and it worked...if that writer put out pieces of fiction that I wouldn't want to read.
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An excellent film!
smcmilla11 April 2000
Sebastian chooses to live with his step dad, Hank, who's fast on his way to becoming Henrietta, and to graduate high school early so he can have adventures and become a writer.

This movie successfully renders a young man's last troubled year in high school without stooping to such heavy handed tactics as voice overs and the like. Adrian Grenier, as Sebastian, is remarkable.
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Clever, hilarious, and inspirational - a Masterpiece!
fidbox29 November 1999
This is one of my favorite movies. If you ever have a chance to see it then indulge! Every frame is beautiful, every line is hilarious -- the film is a masterpiece. Watch Tod Williams, he is a talented director who will be a big name in a few years.
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Quirky and Smart Movie
12XU21 February 1999
Set in rural NY State in the early 80's, this movie follows our hero Sebastian Cole through his formative high school years. His stated goal in life, that of becoming a writer, is fueled by the assortment of eclectic characters which surround him, including his almost-transsexual (minus the final operation) father/mother, Henrietta. Sebastian revels in finding new experiences, and the viewer is rewarded by witnessing his somewhat skewed relationships and romps.

Not unlike a John Irving novel or a less pretentious "The Ice Storm", The Adventures of Sebastian Cole gives the viewer interesting and complex characters and situations, all with a big laugh. With a soundtrack that contains snippets of Blondie, Flock of Seagulls, and even Gang of Four, how could you go wrong with a flick like this?
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Down and Out in Nowheres, U.S.A.
vertigo_1427 July 2004
I like the Adventures of Sebastian Cole, but I'm still trying out to figure whether there was a point to the whole thing. For me, it just plays out as an amusing string of events with characters passing in and out, with little of pithy moral messages meant to inspire the coming-of-age Sebastian.

Adrien Grenier (hubba! hubba!) portrays the idle Sebastian Cole, an aspiring writer (or so he says) who comes from a pretty strange family setting. The movie opens up with Sebastian in a car crash in the middle of the desert somewhere, and he's discovered by a young Spanish woman who cleans up his pretty nast wounds. She asks him of the whereabouts of his family, and he stares into a family photo, which sets up the flashback which becomes the adventures of Sebastian Cole.

Flashback to the boonies of New York, 1983 (get a load of the clothes). Sebastian's family is kind of a scattered one. His mother is married to a wealthy, charismatic, but absentee father. When his stepfather, Hank (Clark Gregg doing a fine job as the likable, level-headed Hank), who is mother is presently married to (at the time of the introduction) announces his plans to become a woman, things get turned upside down and everyone exhibits their own various release. The sister takes off with a creepy guy named Troy and goes through several strange appearance alterations as some sort of acting out. Sebastian's mother (now Hank's ex-wife), takes off for England and basically separates herself entirely from Hank during his transition. Sebastian is the only one to stick by Hank side, somewhat reluctantly at first as he appears understandably uneasy about the situation.

So, Sebastian has to stick it out in this desolate town that Hank lives in now. It's less about him having any sort of Kerouac adventures that may inspire some good writing, and more about simply drifting around and engaging in one situation after another. Things just sort of happen, but nothing really important. Just an amusing string of events inflicted upon Cole. It may be more entertaining had Sebastian, as a character, been less egotistical and too-cool-to-move and more of an interesting character with more appreciable qualities that might give Cole's experiences some kind of meaning. Without such qualities, he's more like an existentialist. Nothing really matters to him. Just get through school and get out of town. And then what? Who knows.

The better part of the movie occurs during the transactions between Cole and Hank, or really anyone and Hank, since he is the more interesting character with more to say, although we really don't see him doing much. To me, Hank should've been the main character, though the sex change operation matters should not consume the whole story had this been the way things are. But, he seems like such a personable guy, something we can take away from. Maybe the only character we can, while the rest seem to float in and out of the story. Sebastian's life appears to be nothing more than adolescent listlessness. His parents seem like trashy figures, especially the grandparents who don't seem to acknowledge their grandson as anything more than a physical occupation of space. They're really quite awful, and I suppose, Sebastian was rebelling against all that. But in a way that showed no purpose. Sort of, as to say, I'll do the opposite of anything structured I've learned. It doesn't matter what I do, so long as it is the opposite. In the end, not only is there no purpose, but it's only entertaining as far as watching a couple of days pass in the life of a somewhat eccentric, totally egotistical teenager.

The family element occupies a lot of the story, and seems to be one of the themes that are most predominant (if not the only one), epitomized by the fact that Sebastian's family setting is so bizarre (split even further as the film continues) and the final scene with the Spanish family back in the desert as the flashback closes.

Teenagers who aren't so stupid as to be unable to handle the plot about Hank's/Henrietta's transition from male to female would probably enjoy this movie for simply being the strange story of a young boy's wild time in Nowheres, U.S.A. Grenier in interesting enough to pull that off, and gain that appeal. It's still entertaining, even if the focus of the whole thing doesn't matter much, or doesn't try too hard to make itself known (as a result of the writing). Though, judging from the use of Blank Generation during the finale motorcyle run through the halls, the song speaks to why Sebastian acts the way he does. And his friends as well. Basically, everything is crap. He's not like his mother or his wealthy father (listen to the different advice his father and Hank give him on his birthday). Hank is more down to earth, more genuine, while everyone else Sebastian knows just seems to be so wrapped up in themselves (and Sebastian is guilty of this, too) and in total worthlessness. They all seem to be running in circles. Hank seems like the only refreshing departure of this.

Everyone does a fine acting job. Russell Harper, as always, was one of my favorite characters, aside from Gregg. Gabriel Macht, who plays Troy, reminds me of Matthew Modine's character, Wooderson, from Dazed and Confused. Except, Troy is hopelessly idiotic and so in love with himself in ways Wooderson could never be.
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Keep Your Eye Lined on the Phallic Cactus Plant
wes-connors23 July 2010
Handsome "up-and-coming star Adrian Grenier (as) 'Sebastian Cole' is a restless seventeen-year-old living in a small town and falling behind in school. But his greatest challenge begins when step-dad 'Hank' announces he is going to become a woman. Suddenly everyone in both families is running for cover but eventually Sebastian returns home to live with Hank, who is now 'Henrietta'. The two of them form a unique family as Sebastian learns to cope with prejudice, his own overheated romantic life, and the non-stop curve balls that life just keeps throwing him," according to the DVD sleeve description, this is a "sexy, spirited and poignant coming-of-age adventure that won critical raves at the celebrated Sundance Film Festival."

The story is told in flashback, to the introduced-as-bloody Mr. Grenier's small (probably) upstate New York town, in 1983.

Obviously, "glam" hit Grenier harder than most small town school boys, because he starts wearing eye make-up before frosting his hair. Although he is "taught" to apply eyeliner in one scene, Grenier appears to have been wearing it before transsexual step-dad. Another distraction is that Clark Gregg (as Hank/Henrietta) seems to become more manly-looking as the film progresses, even after applying his eyeliner; also, he starts to play sports, and beat up bullies. Still, it's impossible to totally put this film down. The story is a good one, with writer/director Tod Williams impressive (great bicycle scene, Mr. Williams, and congratulations on becoming a writer). Good for "Blank Generation" rye-catchers in the proper frame of mind.

****** The Adventures of Sebastian Cole (9/11/98) Tod Williams ~ Adrian Grenier, Clark Gregg, Aleksa Palladino, Margaret Colin
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Self-indulgence in the teen years
B2416 October 2003
Here is another item appearing frequently on the Sundance channel that most viewers will want to skip. Although it shows scraps of intelligence and technical skill, the whole experience portrayed by the eponymous character at its center lacks depth and conviction.

It reminds me curiously of another film called "Te Amo" from Chile that I reviewed recently, wherein we see teenage angst played out in a less-than-compelling bourgeois setting. The "poor me" attitude does not resonate well in today's world populated with millions of truly deprived or otherwise challenged teenagers. Nor is this a Holden Caulfield kind of guy whose alienation has a basis in deeply explored philosophical territory. Grenier's baby-faced character goes from one childish prank to another without much sense or remorse.

Good supporting cast, just a poor script.
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A great message, an okay movie.
pkzeewiz11 May 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Sebastian Cole is a teenager who is from a broken home. His dad is an architect and has little to do with him and his mom is a free spirit who he lives with but has more time devoted to her new husband. Sebastian is a very smart kid with a bright future but his whole world suddenly comes crashing down after his step dad announces he is becoming a woman, sex change and all. His sister runs off with her loser boyfriend and he and his mom head to her homeland of England. After being there a very short time he comes back to the states to live with his step-dad/mom Hank/Henrieta. He soon begins to realize that life is not really that great, we all work and for what, just so we can be like everyone else. His grades slump and he barely makes it out of high-school. His dad and his dads parents all look down on him for being different, his mother finds a new love and he and Henrieta even have many arguments and he finds himself independent. When troubles role in though its always Henrieta who is there for him and also he meets a girl and although he gives her a hard time she sees the passion inside of him too. - There are many deep meanings in this story and its a real story about real love, real family and real life.

I enjoyed this film a lot. I walked away with this beautiful message and that message was that he has a "normall" dad who has no time for him, a "normal" mom who has more important things on her mind and "normal" grandparents who look down on him, but the "freak" the "weirdo" Henrieta is truly the one who loves him and is always the one family member who is there for him, even though he has no legal reason to be.

I liked how Sebastian saw the world and wanted to live life good or bad and not let material things hold him down and not let school tell him who he was. Life is rarely lived by anyone, no matter what we do we are gonna die, no matter what we own we leave with nothing and life is out there and most of us restrict ourselves to the "norm" and waste our life looking for something that is not even there.

I thought Tod did a great job directing this and the actors did great. Adrien Grennier as Sebastian and Clark Gregg as Henrieta especially. I also liked Gabriel Macht as Troy.

There is a scene in here when Sebastian has to pretend to know karate to impress the school board and the scene is very funny, it was a highlight of my movie watching experiences.

Good movie, a lot of people label this movie as a gay movie and it is very far from anything like that. There is a man who becomes a woman and it is not anything bad at all, the closest he gets to having a gay moment is having Levon Helms character flirt with him. 4/10 stars - good film
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Pondersome, Slow and Uninspired
Mitch-3825 February 2001
Quirky, almost creaky, coming of age tale of would-be writer Sebastian, and his teen trauma/angst. The protagonist, upset by his family and surroundings, delves into self destructive behavior. He ultimately comes off as self involved and a user of other peoples feelings. He doesn't need an adventure, Sebastian needs therapy. The script is uninspiring, and the slow narrative, which is great, if it pays off, leaves the viewer dulled. Another film graduate of the "It's All About Me" academy. Not recommended.
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