Movie Review – Big Time Adolescence
Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this review are solely those of Marlon Wallace and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of WBOC.
Writer-director Jason Orley in his feature debut references the character of Eddie Haskell from the comedy series Leave It To Beaver (1957). Literally, one of the main characters here is nicknamed “Eddie Haskell.” Orley’s film centers on a high school student who plays for a baseball team called the Beavers. That show was clearly on Orley’s mind. The 1957 series was about a little boy called “Beaver” who is growing up in mddle America and is often tempted into making poor or bad choices by Eddie Haskell. Eddie Haskell was the older friend of Beaver’s brother. Essentially, the protagonist in Orley’s film is a boy who is similarly tempted into making poor or bad choices by the older friend of his older sibling. The series properly exposed that Eddie Haskell’s influence was a bad influence and typically Beaver knew never to take Eddie Haskell’s advice or follow his example. Orley’s film, though, is instead saying what if Beaver actually did grow up taking Eddie Haskell’s advice or actually following his example. How bad would that be?
Orley’s film begins with a prologue that establishes that at age 9 or 10, a little boy meets his sister’s boyfriend and immediately takes a liking to him. Even after the sister breaks up with that boyfriend, realizing how problematic he is, her little brother doesn’t stop associating with the boyfriend. Despite being six or seven years younger, the little boy keeps hanging out with the older guy. It’s odd because if this were Leave It To Beaver, Eddie Haskell wouldn’t be able to stand having Beaver constantly hanging around him, but this film supposes the gulf between the two characters being bridged and the two bonding in a weird way.
Griffin Gluck (Locke & Key and American Vandal) stars as Monroe Harris or “Mo.” If this were Leave It To Beaver, Mo would be the Beaver. Except, now, he’s 16. He’s perhaps a sophomore or junior in high school, having spent the past six years idolizing his sister’s ex-boyfriend, a guy who’s probably in his mid to late twenties. It’s not exactly clear why Mo idolizes this older guy. Mo probably thinks it makes him look cool by comparison, if he’s hanging out with older guys. Yet, the only thing that all the older guys do is sit in a parking lot, play video games, smoke marijuana and talk about having sex with girls. The latter two are things that Mo doesn’t do or hasn’t done yet.
Mo is at the same time doing normal things that a 16-year-old would do. He plays baseball. He’s trying to get his driver’s license. He likes to listen to music. He does have friends or at least a friend his own age. Yet, Mo barely spends time with that one friend named Stacey, played by Thomas Barbusca (The Mick and Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp). Stacey also wants to seem cool. He desperately wants to hang out with the wealthy and popular kids. He does so by inviting himself to their parties and promising to deliver them alcohol and drugs. Luckily, he knows Mo who knows an older guy who has access to that stuff.
Pete Davidson (What Men Want and Set It Up) co-stars as Zeke Presanti, the aforementioned ex-boyfriend of Mo’s sister. If this were Leave It To Beaver, he’d be Eddie Haskell, except he’s not as sly or that much more clever. Zeke seems extremely more lucky. Zeke is very much akin to Davidson’s character on Saturday Night Live called “Chad.” He seems more like a guy pulled from a stoner comedy. He doesn’t really care about much beyond getting high, hanging out with friends and having sex. He has no direction in his life and absolutely zero ambition to do or achieve anything. He aspires for nothing. He’s feckless. If he had kids, he’d probably be a deadbeat.
However, the point here is that Zeke’s relationship with Mo could be considered that of father-child. They’d probably consider their relationship more of brotherly one, but Zeke has no regard for being responsible toward Mo. When Stacey pressures Mo for liquor and drugs, even potentially dangerous opioids, Zeke happily supplies them and even encourages Mo to basically become a drug dealer. Orley’s film never really interrogates why Zeke is so detached from responsibility or ambition. It’s not as if there aren’t moments where he’s aware that he’s exposing Mo to bad things, but he seems indifferent to stop it. Instead, he merely stands as a representation of Millennial ennui or a kind of suburban privilege that’s more an example of middle-class waste.
Jon Cryer (Supergirl and Two and a Half Men) also co-stars as Reuben Harris, the father to Mo. He’s very much aware that Zeke is having a negative influence on his son. He gives his son a lot of freedom, but eventually it gets to a point where he has to step in. He’s an example of good parenting. Yet, he brings good comedic sensibilities to that good parenting. Oona Lawrence (The Beguiled and Pete’s Dragon) plays Sophie, a girl in Mo’s class whom he likes. The scenes with her make for a good teen romantic comedy. Thankfully, it doesn’t go to the typical teen rom-com direction. Yet, it does kind of end with a shrug that does make it feel somewhat inconsequential.
Rated R for drug content, alcohol use, language and sexual references.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 31 mins.
Available on Hulu.