‘Big Time Adolescence’ Movie Review: Derivative Coming-Of-Age Story Falls Flat
Coming-of-age stories have always been Hollywood’s bread and butter, producing all-time greats like The Kid and Rebel Without A Cause and modern gems like Waves or Eighth Grade. Unfortunately, the only sure thing to follow great innovation is poor imitation — of which Big Time Adolescence is a shining example.
Writer and director Jason Orley‘s debut feature follows Mo (tiresomely underplayed by Griffin Gluck), an impressionable teenager who falls in with Zeke — played by Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson — an older figure whose charisma inspires Mo to become part of his friend group. Zeke is a well-defined type here: popular in high school, unemployed and aimless afterwards.
While Davidson is the only real star power this film has, his performance fails to leave any real mark. The arc of the film is painfully obvious: Mo tries to make his name at school, and dealing Zeke’s drugs gives him access to parties he would not have gotten into otherwise. As Mo falls further into Zeke’s world, he alienates his parents, girlfriend and all other figures worthy of respect in his life.
The trouble is that we’ve seen this all before. Nothing happens in the film that isn’t telegraphed miles before it arrives. No single performances brings any life, and the camerawork and editing are so by-the-numbers that the film often feels more like beefed-up SNL digital short than a real movie.
Big Time Adolescence, like so many other mediocre movies of its ilk, marginalizes its supporting figures in order to fully flesh out its central ones. Unfortunately, Mo’s journey is too simple to be engaging, and Zeke’s is far too one-dimensional to register. This leaves a cast of additional characters who are half-drawn, stereotyped, and one-note. Sydney Sweeney and Colson Baker (more commonly known as Machine Gun Kelly) try their best as other figures within Zeke’s orbit, but the script gives them so little to work with that it’s difficult even to say what the result is.
There is a good film at the core of Big Time Adolescence, one that more deeply explores the consequences of drug use in high school or the pain of moving beyond one’s less mature friends. Unfortunately, the final product instead chooses to meander, trying its hand at comedy, tragedy and romance, failing at each in turn. Fans of Davidson might enjoy seeing big screen time for the man, but beyond that, Big Time Adolescence has little to offer the average viewer.