I can just see the pitch meeting for the new Hulu movie Big Time Adolescence now:
"It's a real coming-of-age story except we also got SNL's Pete Davidson to come in and play a complete piece of shit."
It's hardly a stretch for Davidson (I assume, really, because I've never met the man, but, like, don't you think?) to tackle the role of Zeke, a former high-school big shot whom everyone refers to as a "legend." Particularly enamored is Mo (Griffin Gluck), a slightly younger kid who hangs around with Zeke years after his sister's disastrous relationship with the guy. It's like a symbiotic thing based in ostensible coolness, or at least whatever high school version of coolness exists out there (y'know, drugs and stuff), but Mo's parents (Jon Cryer and Julia Murney) don't love what it's doing to their kid (y'know, drugs and stuff).
Things only get worse when Zeke suggests Mo sell weed and booze to gain access to a party with his older classmates and to get close to a young woman named Sophie (Oona Laurence). Accepted because of his proximity to some dude with a medical card and access to liquor, Mo transforms into a bit of a piece of shit himself, but he'll surely learn some lessons along the way, right? Maybe.
Big Time Adolescence has been lauded as an intimate look into the life of the American teenager, and though it does weave a cautionary tale about what we make of ourselves, what we owe others and some pap about being true to who we are, it only scratches the surface of these things. Director Jason Orley's first feature skates right up to the ideas of mental illness and depression, but only superficially and without outright naming them. Davidson's Zeke, we're told, is 23 and feels lost and empty—though rather than delving into why that is or what toll they take, we get a short montage of filthy houses and nearly empty karaoke bars. We're mostly told he's a loser, though hints at a recently dead grandmother and Mo's sister's new relationship seemed ripe for character development, though none comes.
Gluck's Mo is solid enough and often believable in scenes where he acts too cool only to regret it, but "friends with an older person" isn't so much a personality trait. Still, Jon Cryer stands out as his father, a man answering powerlessness with rising degrees of anger and fear and maybe even a little violence.
Elsewhere, auxiliary characters orbit Zeke and Mo as plot devices and little else, and as caricatures of caricatures of high school teens go, they serve their purposes then flit off into nothingness. Lessons are learned for both Zeke and Mo, though Orley's opus ends with a whimper rather than a bang as we see those lessons set up to dissipate. Perhaps this rings truer to life—people don't often change—but if the goal was to prove to us Zeke and Mo could change, even incrementally, it's still hard to sympathize with straight, white, mostly well-off and good-looking young men who treat everyone around them poorly then sit around wistfully wondering how it all went wrong.
+Jon Cryer is alright; couple funny jokes
-Squandered potential genre growing thin
Big Time Adolescence
Directed by Orley
With Davidson, Gluck and Cryer
Hulu, R, 91 min.