There’s a movie scheduled to come out this summer called King of Staten Island directed by Judd Apatow. He co-writes it along with Pete Davidson, and it is a semi-autobiographical comedy-drama about Davidson growing up in Staten Island and losing his father on 9/11. If you didn’t know any better, however, Big Time Adolescence might feel more like a semi-autobiographical depiction of Davidson, at least of the Davidson we think we know.
Davidson plays Zeke, a 23-year-old burnout whose best days were in high-school. He does a lot of drugs, he drinks a lot of beer, and he does a lot of nothing in between his various dead-end minimum wage jobs. He’s the 2020 version of David Wooderson. He’s a douchebag, but a semi-charming and amusing one, and Monroe (Griffin Gluck) — the otherwise nerdy little brother of one of his ex-girlfriends, Kate (Emily Arlook) — takes a shine to Zeke. Despite an age difference of around 7 years, Monroe ends up spending most of his time outside of school with Zeke and his friends (one of whom is played by frequent Davidson co-star, Machine Gun Kelly), first as the sort of unofficial mascot of the group and later as a lifeline to their better years.
Monroe is a good kid, though. Unfortunately, he is so determined to please Zeke and his burnout friends that he agrees to sell drugs to high-school kids for Zeke. He also takes romantic advice from Zeke, who can’t even navigate his own relationship with Holly (Euphoria’s Sydney Sweeney). All of this, expectedly, ends in disaster — not “prison” or “overdose” disaster, but the more low-stakes variety of “coming of age dramedy” disaster.
Written and directed by Jason Orley (The Intern), there is a lot in Big Time Adolescence that feels genuine, that feels semi-autobiographical. It’s a little Linklater; it’s a little John Hughes, twisted-inside out, and it’s a little bit of Chad from SNL. It’s funny, and wistful, and relatable, and real, and while it may not be your experience, it’s clear that the experience belongs to someone.
From experience, I know these relationships are not uncommon in suburbia. When I used to return home from college, I’d always find my little brother in our living room doing drugs with the burnouts who beat me up in high school. The irony about all of them was that high school was the best time of their lives, and yet every goddamn one of them had dropped out. I’ve been to those hangouts, too, and when you’re a certain age, it feels exhilarating to hang out with older kids — even if they’re f**k-ups — but three or four years later, they’re excruciating, boring, depressing, because it’s the same people, the same drugs, the same stories, over and over.
Orley does a great job of capturing that evolution, but so does Davidson. He’s a character for whom it’s hard not to root, even though you know he’s got no chance in hell of ever-improving his circumstances. He doesn’t have the family or the support system or the education necessary to escape. He’s a lifelong f**k-up, and the hope in Big Time Adolescence is that his damage can be limited. Limiting the damage, however, means escaping Zeke, and yet there’s also something heartbreaking about a 16-year-old leaving behind a 23-year-old after he’s outgrown him.
Ultimately, that’s the point of the film: It’s not a movie that celebrates big-time adolescence. It’s a movie that sees it for the short-term novelty and the lifelong black hole that it is.
Header Image Source: Hulu