Courtesy of Neon/Hulu
In the new coming-of-age comedy “Big Time Adolescence,” SNL stud and former Ariana Grande boy-toy Pete Davidson proves he isn’t just a one joke a minute stoner, he’s actually got solid screen presence and enough charisma to carry a small indie comedy of this caliber. Davidson plays a 23 year old slacker whose best friend is the 16 year old younger brother of an ex-girlfriend. If it sounds silly and somewhat odd, the debut feature by director Jason Orley sets up this budding friendship with relative ease. Never once did I question the logistics of how their relationship might work, because the characters all seem like real, honest, beings stuck in their own life.
As the older half of this odd-couple (“You two are like an old married couple” - someone quips) is Davidson who is so perfectly cast in this role, it makes you forget his real life stumbles. And while “Big Time Adolescence” doesn’t set the stage completely for Davidson to headline a major comedy, the case can certainly be made that the comic is here to stay. Fans of Davidson and comedy indies should find plenty to eat up as the film makes its theatrical debut in select theaters before premiering on Hulu a week later. This is a prime streaming release and a breezy 90 minutes that yarks back to the glory days of R rated teen comedies, though “Adolescence” isn’t as raunchy compared to “American Pie.”
We first meet Monroe (or Mo, played by “American Vandal” standout Griffin Gluck) as he’s pulled out of a classroom by the principle and police officers. We don’t know why, but flash forward six years prior, and we get the idea of who is responsible for Mo’s actions. Impressionable as any 13 year old, Mo developed a bond with his older sister’s boyfriend Zeke (Davidson), though things ended poorly in their relationship, Mo still hung around and kept tagging along through Zeke’s exploits. Years later, he’s got no friends his own age, and spends whatever free time he has drinking beers at Zeke’s house with, of all people, Machine Gun Kelly.
There’s isn’t much to Mo other than he’s a nice kid who wants to quit baseball despite his dad (Jon Cryer) intentions. He’s got a crush on Sophie (Oona Laurence) but the signals are mixed and he can’t tell if her sarcasm translates to something else. Despite Zeke’s constant advice on how Mo should handle the girl, he’s independent enough to handle himself.
Along the way Orley throws in tiny slices of mischief and mayhem into the mix (probably with his own experiences) including being locked inside a car during a hotbox, wild house parties, losing your virginity, and the coveted first kiss are all milestones every teenager has probably been through, and the way it’s presented here feels wholly authentic.
The character development isn’t the best, except for Zeke, where his actions tell us more than we need to know. Davidson is in complete control here, not afraid to shy away from the spotlight and allow Gluck a few moments to shine, and deliver some pristine comic timing. We’ve all known a Zeke in our life, an adult trapped inside a teenager mentality, desperately needing the attention and gratification of others to feel successful. “Big Time Adolescence” might not be the best example for good adulting 101, but give it credit for offering a unique portrait of the trials and tribulations of boyhood.
BIG TIME ADOLESCENCE opens in select theaters starting Friday March 13th and then premieres on Hulu March 20th.