Movie Review: Big Time Adolescence
Big Time Adolescence is about Mo, short for Monroe, who continues a friendship with his older sister's ex-boyfriend Zeke after they've broken up. Eventually, Mo starts wanting to spend time with people his own age who he lets use him for his connection to drugs and alcohol. The two worlds clash and Mo finds himself growing up very quickly. It stars Griffin Gluck, Jon Cryer, Julia Murney, Emily Arlook, Thomas Barbusca, Oona Laurence, Sydney Sweeney, Machine Gun Kelly, and Pete Davidson. It is written and directed by Jason Orley. The film is exclusively streaming on Hulu.
Based on his public persona and most of the roles I've seen him in, Pete Davidson seems like exactly the kind of guy Zeke is. Zeke is so chill about everything, so nonchalant and one thing after another. As one of the world's biggest squares, I can't tell you how uncomfortable guys like this make me. There were parts of this film that made my skin crawl worse than any horror film I may have seen. The actions, complete aloofness, and just being O.K. with everything of the chill dudes throughout set me on edge. Yet, I actually like this movie.
What's interesting about the relationship between Mo and Zeke is that Mo knows it's all wrong. He knows Zeke gives terrible advice. He knows Zeke's life isn't an ideal. Though, he also concedes that he has nothing else. He so desperately wants to be as cool as Zeke because Zeke doesn't have the hangups or the stress and anxiety of everyone else. He can't see and Zeke won't ever show him the inner pain or the terrible thought processes that he has. We get to see it as an audience, though.
The film redeems itself better than a lot of other comedies like it. These characters who are PhDs in aloofness and masters at avoidance often never have distinct emotional beats as Zeke does in Big Time Adolescence. We see the tragedy inside the clown as Zeke pines over Mo's sister who has long ago moved on and when he, in conversation with an old friend, has to reveal his failed attempt at getting sober. The most tragic of course is, Zeke's bender after Holly breaks up with him. He plays it casual at first, but he slips so hard and so fast into his substance vices, it's obvious he has no understanding of how else to process the emotions he's feeling.
Jason Orley's direction is intuitive in that he finds those moments in a scene. I like the unobserved, learned behavior that's unconscious within Mo. There's this great pair of moments that capture this idea. One is when Zeke goes over to Mo's sister Kate's apartment and doesn't realize he's getting a dressing down, misreads the moment and goes in for a kiss and is rebuffed, of course. In a moment a little later, Mo tries to talk with Sophie, the girl he's been crushing on and took out on a date, and can't seem to understand the problems she has with the relationship, goes in for a kiss and is rebuffed. It's an excellent callback of which there are several like it. Orley thought out these characters and it shows he knows them well.
Yet, character is a strong word for what Pete Davidson's doing. As I wrote in the first paragraph, his public persona seems a lot like this guy. I also have a hard time with his accent because it always sounds so fake and affected, but I know it's real. What I really noticed about his acting is it's Sandler-esque. Early in his career, Adam Sandler, and whomever was working with him, knew that people weren't going to see him disappear into a role like a chameleon, they were going to see Sandler be Sandler. Davidson is like Sandler in that, but here while he's doing his sophomorically charming schtick, it works and it seems reigned in and focused. I'm conflicted on the performance, but I definitely see its merits in this context.
I didn't love everything about Big Time Adolescence, as I mentioned I'm an ultra square who's uncomfortable with a lot of the action and supreme overbearance of chill throughout. Though, I like Jason Orley's take on a well-worn type of story. It's not a bad way to spend an hour and a half and may make you chuckle a few times as it did me.