Sundance 2019: Big Time Adolescence

Griffin Gluck and Pete Davidson appear in Big Time Adolescence by Jason Orley, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtsey of Sundance Institute.

Big Time Adolescence falls into the coming-of-age genre as the film is about a high school teen under the unfortunate bad influence of his best friend.

Monroe “Mo” Harris (Griffin Gluck) is a high school teenager.  In a perfect world, his best friend would be someone in his age range.  Instead, his best friend is his sister’s ex-boyfriend, Zeke Presanti (Pete Davidson).  Despite his sister, Kate (Emily Arlook), and Zeke breaking up, Mo maintained contact and got a friend for life.  The break-up scene comes during a funny moment in the film when characters are showing how they would act upon receiving bad news.  It also serves as a comical way of cutting for the opening prologue to present day.

Zeke becomes Mo’s mentor for just about everything that Mo’s father, Reuben (Jon Cryer) resents.  This includes just about every single thing that Mo’s parents–including mother Sherri (Julia Murney)–don’t want him to learn.  But because of Zeke, Mo becomes quite popular in the high school party scene after Will Stacy (Thomas Barbusca) recruits him as the alcohol guy.  Mo even manages to get a girlfriend in Sophie (Oona Laurence).  Until getting invited to the high school party scene, Mo would be hanging out with Zeke and his friends, including Zeke’s girlfriend, Holly (Sydney Sweeney).

At one point, Reuben goes so far as to pay Zeke to take care of his son.  So where did everything happen to go wrong?  My guess is when Reuben paid him to take care of Mo.  Had Reuben known any better, he would have known that Zeke was a bad influence for Mo.  Karma comes calling later on!

In Big Time Adolescence, writer-director Jason Orley gives us a well-meaning film about life as a teenager.  He bases the story on his own experiences while growing up.  This helps to bring an authentic feeling to the film.  We see this in Griffin Gluck’s portrayal of Mo and in what Pete Davidson brings to Zeke.

Let’s talk about the performance of SNL actor Pete Davidson.  It’s a more than a fine role for him.  While the comedian has had minor supporting roles in other projects, this is his meatiest performance to date.  Davidson does a solid job in the film with the material he’s been given.  If it were up to me, Pete Davidson would have a bright future ahead of himself.  Even though he plays a drug-addicted college drop-out, Zeke goes on his own journey as a character, too.

In viewing the film, I couldn’t help but notice how much Jon Cryer resembles Paul Scheer with the shaved head.  I really enjoyed Cryer in his take-no-prisoners portrayal.  Though now there’s a part of me wondering what Paul Scheer would bring to the character!

Big Time Adolescence works as well as it does because writer-director Jason Orley shares with us a fictional version of his life story.

CAST:  Pete Davidson, Griffin Gluck, Emily Arlook, Colson Baker, Thomas Barbusca, Oona Laurence, Esteban Benito, Julia Murney, with Sydney Sweeney and Jon Cryer

Big Time Adolescence held its world premiere during the 2019 Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Dramatic Competition. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.