Normal Adolescent Behavior



Tribeca Film Festival

New Line Cinema

NEW YORK -- As aimless and purposeless as the lives of its teenage protagonists, "Normal Adolescent Behavior" is less illuminating than it is exploitative. Unlike such similarly themed efforts as "thirteen," which provided real depth in its portraits of its troubled characters, director-screenwriter Beth Schacter's drama, which recently screened at the Tribeca Film Festival, is mainly content with an MTV-style superficiality.

Amber Tamblyn, so impressive in the indie drama "Stephanie Daley," has far less to work with here in her portrayal of Wendy, one of a group of six teens -- three boys and three girls -- whose friendships and sexual relationships are troublingly interchangeable.

Their intense bond is tested when Wendy ventures away from the fold to begin a relationship with Sean (Ashton Holmes), her new next-door neighbor, and she is forced to choose between him and her friends.

The film provides a bracing depiction of its adolescent characters' sexuality, from the girl-on-girl makeout sessions to the stripper pole that they practice on with abandon. And its depiction of the pampered conditions at the school they attend -- one scene depicts an outdoor classroom session in which the teacher makes such pronouncements as "Right on!" and "Everything that's brought to the circle has merit" -- seems scarily correct.

But the rambling story line has little resonance, and such subplots as a teen boy's obsession with a hot scientist mother (Kelly Lynch) fail to sustain interest.

Tamblyn and buxom co-star Kelli Garner provide vivid portrayals of adolescent female sexuality, and Holmes, who made such a strong impression in "A History of Violence," delivers another sensitive portrayal. But the film ultimately mirrors the shallowness of its characters all too closely.