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‘Big Time Adolescence’: an unconventional, heavy-hearted comedy

3.5 stars


Much like a younger, cannabis-loving version of Will Ferrell, Pete Davidson, when appearing in a film or show, is likely going to make you laugh. He’s a comedian with a well-known “Saturday Night Live” career and a Netflix stand-up comedy special, and his slightly awkward, gawky brand of humor is what viewers expect whenever he’s on-screen. But in “Big Time Adolescence,” a 90-minute film released on Hulu in March, Davidson shows that his comedy can have another dimension.

Directed by Jason Orley, the movie first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January of 2019. Now, a little over a year later, it hit Hulu’s comedy section for subscribers to see and judge this new side of Davidson’s humor for themselves. 

The film follows Monroe, who goes by “Mo,” played by Griffin Gluck, and his close friendship with Zeke, who’s played by Davidson. Mo has idolized Zeke ever since he was introduced to Mo’s family when he dated his older sister in high school. Despite the seven-year age difference, the two form a unique friendship that would see Mo through middle and high school, where the movie begins. 

The post-high school Zeke that the movie features is exactly the type of guy you don’t want your 16-year-old son hanging out with, and perhaps this is what’s so unique about Davidson’s role in the film: you don’t really like him, but you get why Mo does. From a parent’s point of view, Zeke is irresponsible and immature, with few aspirations. He spends most of his time doing drugs and drinking and has no plan for the future. But through flashbacks to Zeke’s relationship with Mo’s sister, it’s easy to see how the relationship came to be, and how, when in high school, Zeke would have been very cool.

Although the film is categorized as a comedy due to a handful of absurd ideas and situations that Zeke and Mo end up in, the realistic aspects of the plot water down the humor and create a slightly depressing undertone. Rather than taking the classic goofy comedy route, the movie tells a more realistic story, one of a boy coming to the realization that his idol isn’t all that he once thought he was. And though Davidson fits this role perfectly, this impending realization is present throughout the movie, making it hard to see much of it as funny.

With Davidson’s effortless performance as a bad influence, he displays a serious undertone to his comedy style that’s not often present in his typical SNL skits or other TV and movie appearances. Despite his character’s immaturity, Davidson’s ability to capture Zeke’s shortcomings suggests a new, somewhat unseen maturity for the actor. At a glance, Zeke’s character actually has some similarities to Davidson himself: they’re both goofy, they both enjoy smoking weed and doing drugs and they both come off as fairly easy-going, lighthearted people. But other than this, Davidson’s intelligence and maturity far exceeds those of his character, and the distance he so tactfully creates from himself in his performance as Zeke is laudable. 

If you have a Hulu subscription, this movie is worth watching largely due to Davidson’s performance, but also to check out Orley’s impressive direction and screenwriting that makes it feel realistic. However, don’t expect it to be a knee-slapping type of funny, and be prepared for the fact that it doesn’t follow a typical comedy storyline. If anything, it’s a bit of a downer. But kudos to Orley for telling a realistic story and attempting to keep it light. 

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