Judd Apatow has released his latest movie on demand this weekend and it is very much a Judd Apatow movie.
Apatow has had a bunch of movies in his career that I would consider to be similar to The King of Staten Island. Films such as This is 40, Trainwreck, Funny People, Knocked Up appear in his oeuvre. They tend to be heavily reliant on dialogue, focus on characters over plot and tend to be fairly long.
I think those descriptors work well to describe The King of Staten Island. The film starred Pete Davidson as Scott, a 24-year old high school dropout who lives with his mother Margie (Marisa Tomei) and smokes weed. He wants to be a tattoo artist and practices on his friend, but he has not been very good at it.
Scott’s father was a fireman who died in the line of duty when Scott was seven years old and this loss affected him dramatically. So when his mother starts dating another fireman Ray (Bill Burr), Scott does not respond well.
The performances are all very solid in the film, which, of course, is desperately important for a film like this one. Pete Davidson gives his second strong performance in a film this year, the first being Big Time Adolescence on Hulu. Davidson has shown some range here as the material hinges on the character.
Davidson has to dive into the complicated history of his father and how his relationship with his mother and his sister (Maude Apatow) were affected from his father’s death. The film looks into the choices made by Scott as well. He did things that made him a serious pain in the butt, but everybody seemed to understand why he did it. He was not the most likable character ever, but the charming portrayal made it easier to support him.
Bill Burr was excellent too. This is another character who you are never quite sure of and who showed you several of his figurative warts. Yet, as the film progresses, Ray gives us reasons why he was more than what you first see.
Yes, there is not that much of a plot involved in the movie. It was more like a series of events strung together in a larger narrative. Still, the style does work for this type of film. It may have been a tad over long and could have used a shorter run time, but the time is taken to really show the audience whom these characters were.
The King of Staten Island is a strong film that leans more toward the drama than you might expect. There are funny moments, but they are more like the situational humor than anything else. It is a little long, but you don’t realize that for much of the film. Pete Davidson shows his charisma here and exceeds the expectations.