The coming-of-age Hulu Original film from writer-director Jason Orley premiered at the Metrograph last night with the core cast in attendance.
It’s a match made in burnout heaven: 16-year-old Mo (Griffin Gluck) is taken under the wing of his sister’s (Emily Arlook) lovable ex-boyfriend, Zeke (Pete Davidson), and quickly swept up into a world of drinking, drugs, and partying with his adult friends.
The comedic yet honest script by director Jason Orley is brought to life by Davidson’s stellar performance and strong ensemble cast, making for a standout feature debut. Orley originally uploaded the script onto the famed The Black List in 2014; the film opened at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and will be released in select theaters and streaming on Hulu this month.
“It’s crazy, it’s a long time coming,” Orley said of the six-year experience leading up to evening’s premiere. “It feels like a graduation or something.”
Davidson became connected with the project after Orley saw him do stand-up. The pair worked together to sculpt Davidson’s character Zeke into a fictionalized version of Davidson himself. “Pete [Davidson] coming on completely changed it for me. I knew that this character had to be him and that he had to be this character. I just sent him the script and begged him to do it,” Orley reminisced. Orley also directed Davidson’s recent Netflix special, Pete Davidson: Alive From New York.
The behind-the-scenes friendships continued between lead actor Griffin Gluck and onscreen quasi-villain Thomas Barbusca, playing Mo’s high school frenemy. The duo both starred in TV series The Mick, and Barbusca credits their chemistry in Big Time Adolescence to their prior years working together.
“It was a surreal experience [being on set] because Griffin and I have been working together since 2014,” the scene-stealing Barbusca explained. “He’s a really amazing guy and we have an unbreakable brotherhood so onscreen it shows.”
Oona Laurence, portraying Mo’s crush Sophie, echoed that making the film was a fun experience. “Pete was just being overly hilarious on set and trying out different lines,” Laurence remembered of improvising scenes with Davidson. Her sarcastic character Sophie also mirrored her own humor: “She was such a well-rounded character and you don’t always see that in love interests. She was immediately relatable.”
The authentic storytelling is what propelled the film from a typical teenage drama into a heartfelt moment of realizing adulthood. Co-star Jon Cryer, cast as Mo’s empathetic father, was drawn to the script’s true portrayal of growing up.
“Absolutely I related to my character because he’s a dad who’s trying to understand his child. The hard thing for him is seeing his son have that bond with someone else, and that’s a very particular ‘dad’ pain,” Cryer opened up, saying he felt a similar shift with his own college-aged son. “You just have to feel that feeling, you almost can’t describe it. One of the things I’m thrilled about this movie is they nail it. Jason [Orley] really did a beautiful job.”
Of course as once a teenager himself, Cryer could relate to Mo’s plight. “I would very often be close friends with people who did crazy shit because they give you the license to do that,” Cryer joked. “I had my own Zeke, and I loved him.”
The film also stars Sydney Sweeney as Zeke’s girlfriend and Colson Baker aka Machine Gun Kelly as Zeke’s friend. Davidson and Baker arrived together to the red carpet, and similarly are close in real life as well.
Orley harnessed these various layers of friendships both on and off-screen to further add an authentic lens to the film and credits his own adolescence as an inspiration. “I definitely had friends like Pete [Davidson] growing up like a lot of guys do, and I think that’s what it’s about,” Orley said.
Post-screening, guests mingled upstairs at the Metrograph Commissary while Barbusca and his pals, including actor Noah Centineo, posed for the photobooth. Star Jennifer Lawrence was also in attendance with her husband Cooke Maroney to support the film’s premiere. It was an evening of friends and fun indeed.
“Big Time Adolescence” opens in select theaters March 13th, and is available for streaming on Hulu March 20th.