In Big Time Adolescence, Monroe Harris, portrayed by Griffin Gluck, has spent the majority of his childhood idolizing his sister Kate’s (Emily Arlook) ex-boyfriend Zeke (Pete Davidson) despite the fact she ditched him nearly a decade ago. Zeke is chronically intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. He hasn’t the drive nor the ability to accomplish anything, including working to support himself. Also, Zeke isn’t well-liked by the few adult friends he’s somehow managed to hold on to. He doesn’t know how to identify with adults and seems permanently stuck in a state of adolescence.
Zeke, now in his 20s, doesn’t have any apprehension about acting like a surrogate father to 16-year-old Monroe, even though he knows the teenager cannot relate to his own dad Rueben (Jon Cryer). Monroe viewing Zeke as cool or an influence represents a mammoth high he cannot afford to come down from. Meanwhile, Monroe is in sheer agony after violently vomiting into a toilet bowl in the restroom at school. This comes a day after succumbing to pressure from Zeke and his friends to guzzle a toxic blend of prescription pills and other unknown elements mixed with enough alcohol to knock down a horse.
Fellow classmate Stacey (Thomas Barbusca) approaches Monroe in the washroom, erroneously believing that he must have a strong relationship with local drug dealers and people who can score illicit substances and booze. Stacey views Monroe as the answer to his prayers. There is a party that weekend and he wants to be seen as cool in the eyes of his peers. When Zeke learns from Monroe that Stacey tapped him to provide drugs and alcohol at a party attended by his classmates, he provides Monroe with enough alcohol and marijuana to earn his classmate’s adoration rather than advise him to say no to Stacey.
Monroe has been waging an epic battle with his conscience, which incessantly pummels him for making decisions he knows are wrong. Unfortunately, Zeke’s corrupting influence has proven extremely intoxicating and severely clouds his judgment. So when given the opportunity to make a fortune by supplying a massive party with drugs and booze for an event the entire school will attend, Monroe must trust his inner monologue or trust Zeke, who has planted the seed that “this is no big deal” and will secure him legendary status.
Although Davidson is a talented comedian and skilled improviser, writer/director Jason Orley doesn’t give him much to work with. His character seems overly obnoxious and underwritten. I felt as though Davidson -- who has sadly become known more for his public struggles with addiction and mental illness than for his performances as of late -- is playing a fictionalized and exaggerated version of himself. Gluck appears convincing as Monroe and brings intensity and vulnerability to a character who comes across as extremely susceptible to being preyed upon. Jon Cryer stands out as Monroe’s father, Rueben, who cannot reach his son. He is at his best in a scene showing him pushed to confront Zeke.
Big Time Adolescence ends up being an extreme downer that ultimately collapses. Too bad Orley makes his directorial and screenwriting debut by introducing too many characters who aren’t fleshed out enough to make viewers stick with the film throughout.
(Released By NEON Rated “R” by MPAA for drug content, alcohol use, pervasive language, and sexual references - all involving teens.)