The King of Staten Island; Dir. – Judd Apatow
Rating – “It’s great” / worth adding to your collection.
Judd Apatow is known for making one type of film over and over – overlong stoner comedies about overgrown man-children, and helping commercially unproven comedians become huge stars by making films in which they embody lightly fictionalized versions of themselves. He’s made stars out of the likes of Seth Rogen and Steve Carell in the past, with films like Knocked Up and The 40 Year Old Virgin. This time it is Pete Davidson’s turn, and he fits perfectly in Apatow’s universe of slice of life light-hearted dramas. The SNL star’s brand of ‘I don’t give a fuck’ dark humor is a perfect fit for the coming-of-age tale of a man-child trying to figure his shit out.
This is not the type of comedy where you burst into laughter every five seconds at a penis joke, this movie takes it’s time, (like all Judd Apatow movies) but in doing so it beautifully flutters between scenes that genuinely bring a smile to your face and scenes that will genuinely touch your heart. I walked into this movie completely blind, I didn’t even see a single trailer for it, so the emotional story of the movie is what surprised me the most – this is the most heartwarming Judd Apatow movie I have ever seen. It reminds me a lot of Apatow’s cult TV show freaks & geeks, another charming coming-of-age dramedy, which still remains one of my favorite seasons of television. Maybe it’s because I’m in a similar phase of my life where I’m trying to figure my shit out, but as soon as Pete Davidson’s character walked into the screen, I immediately felt that connection with him. I need to give the movie props for making me care too – I was genuinely invested in the lives of these character and gave a damn about what happened to them, which is a hard thing to achieve.
Based on a script co-written by Davison and Apatow, The King of Staten Island tells the story of Scott Carlin who lost his fire-fighter father in a tragic accident when he was seven years old and has never been able grow up since, which is weird because Pete Davidson also lost his fire-fighter dad who died killed trying to rescue people from the Marriott World Trade Center on 9/11, so in a sense this a semi auto-biographical vehicle for Davidson. But while Davidson uses humor and comedy to deal with the tragedy in his life, Scott is a tattoo artist who dreams of opening a tattoo parlor cum restaurant, which he titles “Ruby Tattuesdays”.
Scott still lives with his mom (Merissa Tomei), while his ambitious little sister (Maude Apatow) goes off to college following her dreams. Both of them are worried about Scott’s life as he refuses to grow up or change. He hangs with his toner friends who are all a likable presence (especially Moisés Arias and Ricky Velez) and you will want to hang out with them. The exchanges between the friends is very realistic and funny in a true Judd Apatow fashion, and it sounds like what a bunch of dudes will be talking about as they smoke some weed. He’s also secretly fucking his childhood friend Kelsey (a brilliant Bel Powley) but Scoot is left so insecure by his father’s death that he is afraid to form any new relationship.
It’s a cozy environment that Scott has built for himself, until one day he tattoos kid in the wood and the kid’s dad (Bill Burr) starts dating Scott’s mom. Okay, Bill Burr is amazing in this movie, he is the perfect balance to Pete Davidson’s dry humor. Bill Burr also plays a fireman in the movie, a detail that doesn’t fit well with Scott as he starts making plans to break up his mom’s relationship, which sets him on a journey that ultimately helps him grow up.
This a masterfully shot movie, with great cinematography and production design, that truly captures the essence of Staten Island. All the performances are great and the chemistry among the cast is perfect and everyone has great lines in the movie. But it is Pete Davidson who ultimately carries this movie with his star-making performance. He maybe playing himself, but his sincerity and charm brings much gravitas to the character that makes you feel for him throughout the story, even when he’s making some pretty shitty decisions. Also the soundtrack of the movie is really unique, and helps set the mood for the story it’s trying to tell.
Is the movie longer than it needs to be? Absolutely. At a run-time of two hours and seventeen minutes, you do feel the length as the script meanders and the actors stretch scenes with improv. But it is also what grounds this movie and trust me, if you sit with it, the movie really pays off in the end. Judd Apatow loves making films about about middle aged men stuck in adolescence, and it is definitely funny to watch the misguided fools do stupid shit. But with The King of Staten Island, Apatow rises above his own storytelling techniques – you are not laughing at Pete Davidson in this movie for not being able to grow up, you rather feel bad for the dude. This movie gives you a sense of why certain people are the way they are – why some people do recreational drugs, why some people have their bodies covered in tattoos, why some people take pride in the comrade of firemen, and ultimately, why certain people come of age at different points in their lifetime, some much later than most.
Alright, so what did you think of The King of Staten Island, and what’s your favorite Judd Apatow movie?
Do let me know in the comments!