Movie Review – Big Time Adolescence
Article series by Ray Schillaci
As I mentioned last week, these days we not only have a lot of time on our hands to watch new releases, but there is an abundance of movies and shows streaming on any number of streaming channels. This week’s movie, Big Time Adolescence, is a Hulu presentation starring SNL‘s own Pete Davidson. It’s Davidson’s presence that elevates this film to a surprisingly charming level, playing the man-child that befriends his ex-girlfriend’s little brother in this touching coming-of-age comedy.
Pete Davidson plays Zeke, a lovable goof and every parent’s nightmare. When Zeke’s girlfriend breaks up with him, for good reason, his little homey, Monroe, can’t find a reason to stop hanging out with him. They continue their bro-ship nearly through the young man’s high school years, much to the dismay of the boy’s parents.
Let’s face it, how many young kids nowadays wouldn’t want to hang out with Pete Davidson? His character seems to have been lifted right out of Pete’s playbook on life. Of course, perhaps that’s judging too harshly…or maybe I’m right on the button. Zeke’s only drive is to get high and have fun. He has his most fun with what has turned out to be his best friend, Monroe. The young man does not dabble in drugs as Zeke does, but does all the other “cooler” things like drinking, taking dares and playing video games.
Zeke has other buddies and his new girlfriend that have accepted Monroe into their fold with open arms. The closest to most level-headed is Zeke’s girlfriend, Holly, who tries to temper her boyfriend’s bad behavior and relationship suggestions to Monroe. Growing up with Zeke has made Monroe awkward and lacking in the friends department at school until he hooks up with a classmate that asks him to bring booze to a senior party. Zeke is happy to oblige and make Monroe the star of the party by supplying him the liquor and as an extra caveat – selling pot.
While at the party, Monroe meets a sarcastic, quick-witted girl his own age and immediately takes a liking to her. Monroe turns to Zeke for advice which leads to many more party invites, a quick rocky relationship, and eventually everything going downhill even with the warnings from his older sister and father. What was fun and cool becomes a world of regret or perhaps a good learning experience.
At first glance, Pete Davidson comes across like an extension of his SNL appearances. But, as the film delves deeper, Davidson invokes a sense of loneliness, hurt and sympathy for Zeke. In some ways, maybe I’m going out on a limb here, but Davidson pulls off the misunderstood bad boy that many can relate to in the way that James Dean made his characters relatable. The big difference here is, Davidson throws us off with his perfect, subtle comic timing.
The rest of the cast is just as engaging. Griffin Gluck captures the innocence and awkwardness of Monroe. Nothing forced here. We feel his joy, pain, and the genuine regret of some of his ill decision making. Oona Laurence is spot on as Sophie, the young girl that’s far too mature for Zeke and his cohorts’ shenanigans. Sydney Sweeney is perfectly charming as Zeke’s bubbly new girlfriend, Holly. And, watching Jon Cryer play a full fledged, straight-as-an-arrow adult as Monroe’s father can be a bit unsettling for those of us that remember his persona in the ’80s. But, he pulls it off with great sincerity.
Writer/director Jason Orley pulls off this high wire act of comedy, drama, and lessons learned. In the wrong hands, the film could have easily been another sophomoric adventure, but instead has a great deal of heart accompanied by some very smart writing. Orley appears to be in perfect sync with his actors, especially Davidson. He’s able to capture every nuance of Davidson’s character and has him shine at every turn.
Big Time Adolescence. The title captures the spirit, irresponsibility, pitfalls and reflective eye of the film itself. A movie that is relatable on so many levels yet is not heavy-handed or flippant about the subject matter. The kind of story we can look back on and say it was well worth the time spent.