Pete Davidson as Scott Carlin
Marisa Tomei as Margie Carlin
Bill Burr as Ray Bishop
Bel Powley as Kelsey
Maude Apatow as Claire Carlin
Steve Buscemi as Papa
Pamela Adlon as Gina
Jimmy Tatro as Firefighter Savage
Ricky Velez as Oscar
Kevin Corrigan as Joe
Domenick Lombardozzi as Firefighter Lockwood
Mike Vecchione as Firefighter Thompson
Moisés Arias as Igor
Directed by Judd Apatow
Written by Judd Apatow, Pete Davidson & Dave Sirus
The King of Staten Island Review:
Judd Apatow has helped shepherd a number of up-and-coming comics to big-screen stardom, including Steve Carrell in The 40-Year-Old Virgin (Apatow’s directorial debut), Seth Rogen in Knocked Up and Amy Schumer in Trainwreck, amongst others, and he has struck comedic gold once again in his latest film effort The King of Staten Island, a semi-autobiographical take on star and co-writer Pete Davidson’s life.
Scott (Davidson) has been a case of arrested development ever since his firefighter father died when he was seven. He’s now reached his mid-20s having achieved little, chasing a dream of becoming a tattoo artist that seems far out of reach. As his ambitious younger sister (Maude Apatow) heads off to college, Scott is still living with his exhausted ER nurse mother (Marisa Tomei) and spends his days smoking weed, hanging with the guys—Oscar (Ricky Velez), Igor (Moises Arias) and Richie (Lou Wilson)—and secretly hooking up with his childhood friend Kelsey (Bel Powley). But when his mother starts dating a loudmouth firefighter named Ray (Bill Burr), it sets off a chain of events that will force Scott to grapple with his grief and take his first tentative steps toward moving forward in life.
Davidson has been the subject of a lot of criticism and fears from audiences over whether to connect with his material or fear for the mental stability of the comic and the script for this film, which he co-wrote with Apatow and his best friend and stand-up comic Dave Sirus, feels like a very cathartic release for the 26-year-old star for his more outrageous behavior as well as his devastating past surrounding the loss of his father at a young age. Much like Ben Affleck with this year’s The Way Back, Davidson turns to the medium he’s made a living off of, comedy, to help grow and find a new path for himself and it truly works.
Though it tends to drag in moments from unnecessary extra moments in the characters’ lives, the film mostly shines through this lag with a brilliant balance of outrageous comedy and wonderful character development that we as viewers find ourselves compelled to want to continue hanging out with Scott and see his continuing strive for a path of growth and initiative. From Scott’s shrugging off his father’s young demise with crossing-the-line humor to tattooing random people near the water (including a troublemaking nine-year-old), the humor feels like a nice blend of Davidson and Apatow’s more raunchy sensibilities alongside their more charming and pointed comedy that is sure to deliver everything from a light chuckle to a gut-busting laugh from audiences.
Much like many of Apatow’s prior works such as 2009’s Funny People and 2015’s Trainwreck, when the film does choose to dive into its more serious subject matter, it proves to be a relatively moving and heartbreaking affair, though one that doesn’t resonate quite as strongly as his other efforts. Be it an unknowing of how deeply to dive into Davidson’s psyche, especially given the real subject’s younger age, or a fear of raising too many troubling emotions for its star and co-writer, the film has some truly powerful moments, namely his first conversation with his mother regarding her prospective suitor, but yet often feels as though it only scratches the surface of the character. We never truly feel as though various story threads are explored as extensively as they should or even to their proper conclusions, thus falling just short of some of its honorable intentions.
Even when the story struggles, however, the film’s cast truly helps carry the film up to its heights of hilarity and introspection, namely Davidson and Burr. Though Tomei is a plenty involved supporting performer and the eldest Apatow daughter continues to grow into a strong star, it’s the initial animosity and subsequent bond between Davidson and Burr that proves to be the stellar backbone of the film. Whether it be throwing jabs at one another, Burr attempting to reach out a loving hand or Davidson retreating into his own immature mindset rather than growing up, the two not only exude a brilliant chemistry between them but also deliver arguably the best performances of their career.
While The King of Staten Island may not be as consistently hilarious or succinct as some of Apatow’s past projects, the film is still a funny, moving and heartbreaking exploration of a young man struggling to grow past his grief that features phenomenal performances from Davidson and Burr and points towards a brighter personal and professional future for the co-writer and star.
The King of Staten Island will release digitally this Friday!