A teenager, “Mo” (Griffin Cluck - American Vandal, 2017-18) comes of age under the perniciously destructive guidance of his former babysitter and best friend, “Zeke” (Pete Davidson – “Duncan” from Set it Up, 2018). Zeke happens to be Mo’s sister’s (Emily Arluck - “Lucy” from Pillow Talk, 2017) boyfriend, a two-time loser and drug addict bong-head. What’s not to love about the premise already? Hilarity is all but guaranteed to ensue. And while Big Time Adolescence is, of all things, touching, “funny as all hell,” would be another good descriptor. Are there any of us who can’t relate to childhood indiscretions and the lessons learned therefrom?
When we are introduced to Mo at the ripe old age of nine, he is looking for a role model. As he grows, we see his inner path begin to emerge—one that is fundamentally different from Zeke’s. And Mo isn’t alone. His sister Kate also does some growing of her own (away from Zeke). In fact, nearly everyone in the film with the exception of Zeke seems to be growing, learning, striving to be a slightly better version of themselves. Life just drifts by for Zeke. He has not a care in the world and lacks even the sense to know that he should care.
When Mo scores a love interest, “Sophie” (Oona Laurence - “Amy” from The Beguiled, 2017), his path to self-reflection really begins. The awkward silences alone make this movie the mixed bag of treats that it is. Every other scene will incorporate disgust, mockery, shenanigans, and appetizing awkwardness.
Now as with all movies of this sort, they end up tending to glorify hedonistic lifestyles while trying to softheartedly expose them. We’ll not let that count against it. More on that later.
The film is one of nuance, which is not just highlighted in the smart-stupid dialog and resplendent smattering variety of grungy personalities displayed, but when we are introduced to Mo’s parents, “Rueben” and “Sherri” (Jon Cryer, Julia Murney), we love it all even more. Both Rueben and Sherri do their best to let their son embark on his own quest for self-discovery to find the reasons why it doesn’t pay to be a loser. This doesn’t mean, however, that a mother won’t still cry for a month straight at her son’s scheduled court arraignment. Mo’s obsession with Zeke is too far-gone to be thwarted, as both discover. They are in the proverbial “rock and a hard place” and unable but to sit by and let their son make his own mistakes. It is this gradually intensifying realization that really resonates with audiences so well and makes the film so darn watchable.
Big Time Adolescence is graced with spicy performances from its leads. Even when certain lines or segments of dialog don’t quite work, the character investment we’ve made in the people we’ve come to know over the movie’s 1-hour and 24-minute runtime pays off. It is brilliant to see a father begin to assault the man who polluted their innocent son, only to see him pull back, knowing that falling to the level of brutality is not in his nature.
Big Time Adolescence will only manage to disappoint some with an ending that will be found to be frustratingly nebulous. It leaves audiences to guess at the finality, which ties right back into the whole purpose of parenting, mentoring, teaching, and schooling—to empower the up-and-comer to find his/her own way. Remember how we said we weren’t going to judge the film based on its tendency to glorify hedonism? In order for one to find their own way, they must make the choice as to whether the hedonistic life is to be glorified or not!