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Sunday, September 26, 2021

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Film Fridays: Big Time Adolescence

<p><em>Graphic by Carissa Gurgul</em></p>

Graphic by Carissa Gurgul

Editor's Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of The Collegian.

Anybody familiar with Pete Davidson knows that his happy-go-lucky attitude has helped him make a career as a comic on "Saturday Night Live." Given his reputation as a comic, one would expect any Davidson movie to have you doubling over in laughter and leave you feeling good. 

However, that is not the case with his 2019 project, “Big Time Adolescence.” The movie's portrayal of the relationship between Zeke, played by Davidson, and Monroe, played by Griffin Gluck, explores the effects of predatory relationships.

Director Jason Orley shaped the relationship between Zeke and Monroe to resemble, in some aspects, child grooming. Zeke gains Monroe’s trust from a young age, they bond, Monroe becomes extremely loyal to Zeke -- even putting him above his own family -- and Monroe eventually gets involved in illicit activities. 

The relationship falls short of child grooming, however, because the sexual component associated with grooming is not present in the film. The movie puts forth the idea that older people get involved with children because of feelings of admiration. Monroe thought highly of Zeke, and Zeke picked up on that and was motivated to get closer with Monroe.

The movie challenges what a groomer can look like. A common belief is that the people who end up trapping children in inappropriate relationships are strangers to the family. In the case of “Big Time Adolescence,” Zeke had been friends with Monroe since he was a child. Additionally, Zeke’s lackadaisical attitude challenges the conception of a child groomer. 

Moreover, Monroe is not seen as an impressionable teen; he comes off as confident and self-assured. This helps the movie to challenge ideas of who can fall victim to child groomers.

Zeke and Monroe’s relationship can seem realistic because of the age difference between them, which is large enough for it to come across as inappropriate but still close enough for the ensuing events it causes to be believable. 

Davidson shines in his role because his character does not stray far from the happy-go-lucky attitude that he projects in real-life. However, the effect that his character has on Monroe portrays Davidson’s comedic character in a negative light, which comes as a surprise and makes the movie all the more interesting. 

Although Zeke did not set out to take physical advantage of Monroe, the age difference between the two facilitated the dynamic that allowed their relationship to form in an unfairly advantageous way. This reminded me of my own experiences at boarding school: younger kids could get into trouble when the older kids they were friends with did not set boundaries on acceptable behavior. In this way, the movie shows why kids need positive role models in their lives.

Overall, “Big Time Adolescence” is a good movie. Compelling performances from Davidson, Gluck and the supporting cast members bring the characters to life, and the director’s willingness to engage in social commentary makes it more insightful and enjoyable to watch. 

“Big Time Adolescence” is available to stream on Hulu.

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Contact contributor Abdulghaffah Abiru at ghaffah.abiru@richmond.edu.

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