A lot of actors come out of SNL and have lucrative film careers playing overgrown manchildren. Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell are still going, Chris Farley would still be had he lived and Rob Schneider had a good run. Now Pete Davidson stars in Big Time Adolescence but this is not his Billy Madison. This one holds his character more accountable for arrested development but it’s still fun.
Monroe (Griffin Gluck) started hanging out with his sister (Emily Arlook)’s boyfriend Zeke (Davidson) when he was a kid and continued after they broke up. Now Monroe is 16 and Zeke is 23 when it’s no longer endearing to hang out with high school kids. Zeke still does nothing with his life, slacks at part time jobs, pines for his ex and still just gets drunk and high.
Zeke is a funny character but Big Time Adolescence spends just as much time showing him as sad and pathetic. It’s not just the adults like Monroe’s dad Reuben (Jon Cryer) calling him out. Zeke spends a lot of time alone and lonely, even when he’s surrounded by roommates or the girlfriend, Holly (Sydney Sweeney), he takes for granted.
I think it is good for Monroe to remain friends with Zeke. Socializing is hard for teens and Zeke can help with how to act at parties. Scoring drugs and drinks is part of that. Kids are going to experiment. He can help Monroe talk to girls, but since Zeke doesn’t have adult relationships Monroe should probably stop listening to Zeke once he’s hit it off with Sophie (Oona Lawrence). That’s a life lesson too. Don’t listen to your idiot friends. Trust your heart.
When he’s 10, Monroe is impressed that the drive thru window lady knows Zeke by name. Little things seem cool to kids, and even as a teenager, a 23-year-old has just a little more experience than you, but is close enough to seem more credible than your parents. Reuben’s exasperation at Zeke is hilarious, as Cryer plays it, but when it comes time to intervene he doesn’t play it like the typical movie parent. He knows this will eventually run its course and there’s nothing he can do to speed it up.
Big Time Adolescence captures what occupying time in high school is like. Especially for kids who don’t play sports or have scheduled activities, you just look for something fun to do on the weekend. And if you bring drugs to a house party once, the kids want to do it every weekend.
These characters articulate themselves a little better than real teenagers, especially Sophie. She knows what she wants. It’s certainly what I wish I had said 25 years ago. Writer/director Jason Orley captures the voice of teenagers without trying to load them up with Twitter and Instagram references.
Davidson shows he has the screen presence to carry a movie and it doesn’t have to be a high concept SNL comedy. Gluck too shows he can be the everykid both living a fantasy and struggling grow up. Not to be outdone, Lawrence, Arlook and Sweeney imbue their characters with agency and wisdom.
Big Time Adolescence is going to be a movie teens watch over and over again at sleepovers. Or they’ll all watch their own copies on their phones or a shared Netflix account, however kids watch movies these days.