Whether Pete Davidson’s comments last month about being done with Saturday Night Live were true or not, it doesn’t look like it’s gonna matter, at least to him. Should the comedian put Rockefeller Plaza in his rearview, he’s proven that he’s got the talent to sustain himself for as long as he wants. Hot on the heels of his hit Netflix special Alive from New York comes his first starring role, and he crushes it.
As the bright star at the center of Big Time Adolescence, Davidson makes the Hulu original film far more watchable than it deserves to be. Sure, playing a stunted, man-child stoner isn’t exactly a stretch for Davidson, but it’s what he does with the role that proves there’s far more to him than meets the eye. This dude’s actually got something, as has been clear to anyone who’s tuned into SNL lately. It’s no secret that Davidson has been the show’s stealth weapon for years; his devil-may-care sensibilities have made him a breath of (not so) fresh, unfiltered air. He ups his game even further here.
Davidson stars as Zeke, a 23-year-old burnout whose continued friendship with his ex-girlfriend’s kid brother is the core of the film. Sixteen-year-old Mo (Griffin Gluck) is a fairly typical high school outsider, lacking friends, potential, or any appeal to the opposite sex. What he does have is a solid bromance with Zeke that evolves into a textbook symbiotic relationship—Mo gets the opportunity to mature way ahead of schedule (if sneaking beers and hanging in a strip mall parking lot with adults is mature), and Zeke gets to be a protective big brother (while extending his license to drink beers and hang in strip mall parking lots).
We know from the outset that things don’t end well; before flashing back to the start of the friendship six years earlier, we watch as Mo is handcuffed and escorted from his school. The rest of the movie reveals how we got there, and though it sometimes ain’t pretty (how could it be?), it rarely rings false and is generally sharp, insightful, and hilarious. From the anxiety that the friendship causes Mo’s dad Reuben (Jon Cryer) to the evolution of Mo as the number one high school party drug dealer in upstate New York (thanks to Zeke), we get a front-row seat to the Superbad-style madness. The more that things spiral out of control, the more entertaining Big Time Adolescence becomes, while we, at the same time, feel the palpable dread of whatever last straw lands Mo in custody.
First-time writer and director Jason Orley wrote the script seven years ago as he was crashing in his aunt and uncle’s guest house and hoping to break into the business. Big Time Adolescence certainly has some rough edges (the first half of the film far outpaces the second half, when things start to drag and get drawn out), but it clearly announces Orley’s arrival in the genre. It’s big-time fun.