by Philip Price
Director: Jason Orley
Starring: Griffin Gluck, Pete Davidson & Jon Cryer
Runtime: 1 hour & 31 minutes
"The drive-thru lady knows your name?"
"Hell yeah, little homie."
Pete Davidson plays the guy who if he had half as much drive and ambition as he did charm and wit would be the complete package really well. Given both this and “The King of Staten Island” there is undoubtedly some comfort level and truth to this type, but the way he capitalizes on this niche in “Big Time Adolescence” is done so in that age old fashion that genuinely makes you hate yourself for even warming up to the guy because the type is so predictable, but so appealing that you feel bad for how much of a waste his life's become. No, this isn't necessarily anything we haven't seen before, but it deals with these cyclical, youthful tropes in a present and direct fashion.
"Well, my best friend Zeke, do you know him? He used to go to our school...he was like a big deal back in the day, but...yeah, he kind of invented these parties."
"He invented hanging out in basements?"
The ensemble doesn't hurt either though, as it's nice to see Oona Laurence (“Southpaw”) continuing to book work and she does great work in her limited role here as the more mature, well-balanced female our protagonist has a crush on, but can't quite keep up with. I still don't care for Machine Gun Kelly, but he's here too and will seemingly be following Davidson around for the foreseeable future. Jon Cryer both plays into and against type as the dad of Griffin Gluck's Monroe who continues hanging out with Davidson's Zeke long after him and Monroe's older sister break-up. This leads to the crux of the film in that, upon meeting one another Zeke was 16 and Monroe or "Mo" as everyone calls him was probably 10 or 11 and so Mo naturally idolizes this guy who can drive, get fast food whenever he wants, who makes out with girls and who was legitimately popular. Fast-forward to when Mo is the age Zeke was when they first met and Mo is beginning to think about his future while Zeke does little more than drink, smoke pot and reminisce about the past.
"It's actually one of my favorite artists working right now. All of his stuff sort of makes fun of the over-commercialization of the art market. It's fascinating stuff."
"Yeah, bro it's...it's mad orange."
Fortunately, in this iteration of this timeworn tale writer/director Jason Orley concentrates not so much on the arrested development of Zeke, but more on the dynamic between he and Mo who is coming to realize that if he continues down the path he's on and continues to follow in the footsteps of Zeke that he's going to wind up in the same place as his "older brother"; someone who has long since piqued by 23 with little to no substance to their character and a routine that will expire within the next two years if not sooner. That Orley approaches this largely from the perspective of Gluck's Mo allows for the realization to be more impactful as it's more of a firsthand account of this crisis between loyalty and self-preservation. This is a choice most will identify with and seeing Mo deal in this revelation where no matter his loyalty, the approval and validation he receives from Zeke will always only come in the form of Zeke being responsible for his successes is one that slowly chips away at the perceived charm and appeal.
"There's more to life than scribbles and dicks."
"No, there isn't."
It is heartbreaking as Mo comes to terms with the fact the only reward he’ll ever receive for his loyalty is the continued presence of Zeke in his life, no matter how detrimental this seems to increasingly be or what a treat Zeke seems to think it is for him. Thankfully, rather than retreating to simple affirmation and renewed outlooks, Orley opts for the messiness of real-life consequences and harsh realities as he smacks Zeke in the face with the ugly truth that Mo only hung out with him to feel cool, that he was only hanging out with Mo to feel the same and worst of all, that one day Mo would figure it all out and realize he was the last person on earth who thought Zeke was cool.
"This time I just want to tell you how much I like you and not take Zeke's advice because let's face it, Zeke's advice can only get me as far as Zeke."