BIG TIME ADOLESCENCE: Familiar But Heartfelt

With COVID-19 spreading across the world and people quarantining at home, streaming services have become a saving grace. Taking advantage of that fact, Hulu decided to release Big Time Adolescence (a pick up from Sundance 2019) a week early. While the film itself plays with familiar aspects in coming-of-age movies, stand-out performances from Pete Davidson (SNL) and Jon Cryer (Pretty In Pink) and the complex relationships between characters makes the movie an emotional but fun ride.

Directed by Jason Orley, the film follows Monroe “Mo” (Griffin Gluck), a teenager who befriends his sister’s college dropout ex-boyfriend Zeke (Davidson)As Mo goes through high school, he begins to realize that the friend he’s idolized for so long may not be the best influence on him.

Somewhat Familiar

The weakest aspect of Big Time Adolescence is that many of the ideas explored have been covered in other teen movies. There’s an important subplot in which Mo attempts to date Sophie, a girl from his class (Oona Laurence). Their relationship is sweet, but she isn’t given much to do. Her character feels more like a stepping stone for Mo than a meaningful part of his life. The same goes for Stacey (Thomas Barbusca), another kid in Mo’s class who asks him to get alcohol for a senior party. There are several parties throughout the film, and mostly feel like stereotypical movie parties; the jocks are obnoxious and the stoners are acting crazy.

source: Hulu

The derivativeness doesn’t make the film any less entertaining. Orley does a pretty good job of updating some of what we already know. For example, Mo asks Sophie how she got into the party since it is seniors only, to which she replies “I don’t think those rules apply to girls.” The film also explores modern dating culture over text in a way that many teen movies can’t pull off. Of course Mo has an angsty relationship with his parents, but it is one that feels very 2020. The casting of teen movie icon Jon Cryer as Mo’s father indicates that Orley was completely aware that what he was making echoed classic teen movies of the past.

Heartfelt Performances

While Gluck plays the main character, it is Davidson who truly shines. It isn’t a role that pushes him out of his comfort zone in any way. In fact, if you watch his Netflix stand-up special Alive From New York, you’ll probably notice that he and his character aren’t so different. But it isn’t all stonerisms and shenanigans. Davidson has a few scenes that give him a chance to be a bit more sentimental. In particular, there is a scene in which one of Mo’s parties gets broken up by the police and Zeke decides to save him. The lead up to that decision is mostly dialogue-free. You can see Zeke making that choice through facial expression alone. It is safe to say Orley and Davidson have a great working relationship, as he also directed Davidson’s stand-up special.

source: Hulu

Even though Gluck isn’t the standout doesn’t mean he isn’t great. He does exactly what he needs to as a teenager realizing that he might not be living up to his full potential. It is impressive that someone so young is easily able to play off of older, more experienced actors. Cryer plays the role of Mo’s father who doesn’t love how much time he spends with Zeke. There’s a scene near the end where he confronts Zeke that is extremely powerful and reminds us why Cryer deserves more roles like this.

Davidson’s real-life friend Colson Baker, otherwise known as Machine Gun Kelly, has a small role in the film. The two previously starred together in The Dirt, and obviously their friendship brings natural chemistry. Omar Brunson (Luce) plays Danny, another member of their friend group. Euphoria’s Sydney Sweeney appears as Holly, Zeke’s sort-of-girlfriend. The three bring a fun energy to the movie, but the dynamic of the group could have been explored further. Sweeney is one of the many excellent performers on Euphoria, and it’s a shame she didn’t get to use more of her skills here.

Relationships At The Center

The relationship between Zeke and Mo is what elevates Big Time Adolescence. At first, Mo sees Zeke as a cool older brother. He gives Mo easy access to the things every teenager wants to try and allows him to hang out with older people. Though Zeke can be a little self-centered, the pair genuinely care about each other. They wouldn’t be friends if they didn’t. It’s a fun and unexpected type of friendship that helps us understand why Mo is the way he is.

source: Hulu

Mo begins to realize that he and Zeke’s relationship might not be the healthiest. He puts him in less-than-ideal situations, gives problematic dating advice, and creates a wall between Mo and his peers. He realizes that he doesn’t want to be like Zeke, living as if he is still in high school. The crack in the facade of cool is what separates this film from others of its kind. Zeke has to come to terms with the truth of his life too. It’s an idea that many, especially today’s teenagers, can relate to.

Big Time Adolescence: Conclusion

Overall, Big Time Adolescence is very funny and features great performances and character interactions. In a time of so much uncertainty, a movie like this is the very definition of a “comfort watch.” And we could all use that right now.

What did you think of Big Time Adolescence? Let us know in the comments!

Big Time Adolescence  was released on Hulu on March 13, 2020

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