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Big Time Adolescence

(Distributed by Hulu; Image Downloaded from Decider April 3, 2020)
(Originally posted on PatPostsAboutFilm.tumblr.com on April 3, 2020)

Release Date: March 13, 2020
Runtime: 1hr 30m
Director: Jason Orley

Coming-of-age dramedies were probably in their heyday in the 1970s and 80s, with the best remembered ones such as The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles, while less-remembered but still prevalent at one point movies like Breaking Away all carried similar tropes. Youth is a particularly interesting focus in movies as there is a diverse amount that can be explored when humans are in a rapidly-developing phase of life. Some films become highly endearing such as the ones mentioned above, or they become a weird mix of messages such as All the Bright Places, another direct-to-streaming movie that recently released that I do not plan on reviewing as I would be required to watch more than what I could stomach.

Big Time Adolescence is a unique look at its subject, focusing on protagonists Mo (Griffin Gluck) and Zeke (Pete Davidson) as a pair of opposites. Mo is the younger brother of Zeke’s ex-girlfriend Kate (Emily Arlook), who for nearly seven years past their breakup and despite the large age difference has continued looking up to Zeke as his best friend, and importantly, his only true friend. Zeke has not grown up much since the breakup, and in turn, it seems his immaturity could stunt the development of Mo’s. 

In numerous situations, Mo begins to emulate many of Zeke’s attitudes when it seems like good advice, rather than pick up on anything his fellow classmates do given that he feels out-of-touch with his age group. This sends him down a predictable, downward spiral, although this film takes a chance to look at the situation differently than most of its genre, and moves the story along with consequences.

Unlike the films I’ve listed above, Big Time Adolescence is not a “kid gets down on his luck, but wins the girl and saves the day at the end” kind of movie. It instead takes the opposite route, but not far enough that it takes away from the realistic outlook of Mo’s future. His experiences with drugs becomes immediately apparent to his parents, with his father (Jon Cryer taking a realistic approach to the wary father role) attempting to bar Mo’s Eddie Haskell from continuing to steer him the wrong direction without being overbearing. This fails, although Mo loses nearly everything with meaning in high school, including school itself for a period of time, the film doesn’t end with him just accepting it’s over.

I won’t give away how it ends, but it ends on a note that is neither bleak, nor happy. It is not the ending that immediately gives us what happens to either protagonist after the story we have watched is over. Instead, it allows the audience to ponder where they see those characters and how much they relate to them, then how their own life story has gone. There’s enough of Mo that I can find similarities with in personality that doesn’t feel like typical, and many characters in the story are thankfully written with more than two dimensions so the story has enough sides to last several rewatches. 

The biggest thing I take away from this movie is that the coming-of-age genre isn’t necessarily dead, but it’s somewhat of a lost art in cinema. You don’t have to necessarily be in the age group to enjoy it, as for many adults it gives them a chance to see what the writer and director sees. They were kids once too, and sometimes that never leaves. The kids just get taller as they get older. 

5/5

Special thanks to my childhood best friend, Sam Hyde, for recommending this to me. This review marks a change on my site, in which I will be reserving reviews for more obscure movies, and for discussing various topics relating to cinema that can involve both blockbusters and small movies that make it to YouTube.

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