Misguided Advice From Pete Davidson Helps Teen Come of Age in ‘Big Time Adolescence’
Pete Davidson plays a monumental role in the life of a young man during his formative years in the dramedy “Big Time Adolescence.” In this feature debut from writer/director Jason Orley, Davidson plays the type of guy one imagines he would have become if he didn’t have comedic talent and drive, that is a stoner living a low-budget hedonistic lifestyle.
But Davidson is not the lead of “Big Time Adolescence,” as the adolescent here is Monroe “Mo” Harris, a 16-year-old high school student played by Griffin Gluck, a rising actor who resembles a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The film opens on a dark note, with Mo getting arrested in the middle of class. Flashback to six years earlier, and young Mo idolizes Zeke (Davidson), the cool guy dating his older sister, Kate (Emily Arlook). After the pair call it quits, Zeke remains a mentor of sorts to the kid brother. In present day, he’s a slacker half-assing it at a retail job. One thing that Zeke has going for him that most 23-year-olds in his position don’t is that he has his own house, an inheritance from his grandmother. Frequent guests to this party house include not only Mo, but also Holly (Sydney Sweeney), Zeke’s recent high school-grad girlfriend, and Nick (Machine Gun Kelly), his bonehead buddy.
Mo’s close relationship with Zeke doesn’t sit well with his parents, particularly his father, Reuben (Jon Cryer). The differences between the generations comes through loud and clear after Mo defends his pal to his dad, explaining how Zeke isn’t a total loser because he’s planning on starting a podcast. Nobody cares about what you’re going to do, only about what you have done, says Reuben. Still, Reuben offers Zeke money to look after his son and make sure he doesn’t drink and do drugs, and while Zeke feels some responsibility towards Mo, he ultimately lacks the capacity to look out for his own best interest, let alone someone else’s.
While Zeke is inherently a good guy, he ends up hurting Mo more than he helps him, spouting out horrible advice on how to manipulate his crush, Sophia (Oona Laurence), into wanting him. But the worst comes after he gives Mo drugs to sell at high school parties, turning him into “the guy with the bag.”
Again, this role isn’t a big stretch for Davidson, but he deserves props for making us feel for this loser character, as Zeke does make some attempts to better himself. He still has feelings for Kate, now law school-bound, who still ocassionally has sex with him, despite having a new boyfriend. In a misguided effort to impress her, he tries to buy a painting off the wall at a local museum, offering a docent a wad of cash, before buying a poster in the gift shop. Later, he manages to feel happy for Mo for achieving a major milestone, even though he betrayed Zeke in the process.
Overall, Orley comes up short when it comes to Zeke’s character development. Instead, it is Mo who grows the most. Eventually, he finds himself in deep you-know-what, forcing him to make some choices, although Reuben plays an important role. At the end of it all, Mo’s story is relatable, as just about anyone who has ever been a teen knows what it’s like to mature and learn that the people you once looked up to aren’t always what you thought they were.
“Big Time Adolescence” opens March 13 in select theaters and is available to stream on Hulu.