Big Time Adolescence (2020)

“You guys are like an old married couple.”

Like plenty of teens walking the halls of high schools, Big Time Adolescence struggles to find its identity among the numerous films sharing the many limitations of its genre classification. There’s sex, drugs, drink and hijinks. And while the picture has plenty of ideas to puff and to pass around its self-governed smoke circle, what’s seriously missing is the deeper characterization of people who deserve crescendos and fulfilled arcs but are not granted that level of growth in the script. Big Time Adolescence has plenty to say. I’m just not sure the words add up to anything substantial.

Big Time Adolescence is basically what you call a two-hander. There are plenty of side and auxiliary characters who influence the story in their own minor ways, but at the end of the day this is the depiction of a friendship between two wildly different individuals. Monroe “Mo” Harris (Griffin Gluck) pretty much goes unnoticed by his peers, fading into the background of all the noise that is high school. His parents (played by Jon Cryer and Julia Murney) encourage his continued participation in baseball even though he’s clearly out of his league and his element. Mo’s more comfortable hanging out at Zeke’s (Pete Davidson) place, shooting the shit, getting a little high and having a couple drinks from time to time. They’ve been buddies for years, long after Mo’s sister Kate (Emily Arlook) broke up with Zeke, and the two have palled ever since. To call them an odd couple is an understatement.

Mo rides shotgun and plays the sidekick to the pot smoking Zeke. For the audience, it’s clear from the onset that Zeke is an ostensible loser, squatting in his late grandma’s home and carelessly working a dead-end job at the aptly named “Refrigeratorville.” He can be funny and feign wisdom like a late night drunkard might at your local watering hole, but Zeke is hardly compelling, especially given Davidson’s incredibly lax performance. Davidson is no dramatic actor and he seems to know it, leaning heavily into the traits SNL has largely exploited him for, and he brings a genuine level of authenticity to the role when he gets to be himself. As for the rest of the time though, it feels like one long sketch featuring the trademark dry and dull humor of his Chad character while wearing his heart on his tattooed sleeves. That Mo becomes more unlikable and unreasonable as the film goes on only sours the already spiked punch.

While I’ve never bought into the “coming of age” genre as whole, Jason Orley’s feature debut in Big Time Adolescence heavily relies on the old cliches and the tiredd tropes most commonly associated with this subgenre of movies, practically to the point of being comically predictable. As a matter of fact, I much preferred 2018’s Hot Summer Nights and 2007’s Charlie Bartlett because they both tackled a similar story with a unique personality and a sense of style. Orley is a more than capable director though, getting good performances from his cast and he balances a challenging tone. Having said that, Big Time Adolescence doesn’t quite come full circle or provide a proper arc to its two lead characters by the time the credits roll, and it’s really too bad that the film feels every bit as listless and lost as its meandering male leads.

“It stops being fun really fast.”

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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