the king of staten island

★★★★

DIRECTOR: judd apatow (knocked up, 40 year old virgin)
STARRING: pete davidson, Marisa Tomei, Bill Burr and Bel Powley

 

REVIEWER: lyall carter

Scott has been a case of arrested development since his firefighter dad died. He spends his days smoking weed and dreaming of being a tattoo artist until events force him to grapple with his grief and take his first steps forward in life.

To be honest, I’ve never really heard of Pete Davidson before last night's film. The two things I knew about The King of Staten Island was that it was directed by comedic genius Judd Apatow and that it was a semi biographical account of Davidson’s life. And I kinda liked going into the film with no expectations because it let me completely appreciate the comedic, raw and real exploration of grief, second chances and taking hold of your life. 

 

Scott 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 heads off to college, Scott is still living with his exhausted ER nurse mother and spends his days smoking weed, hanging with the guys - Oscar, Igor and Richie - and secretly hooking up with his childhood friend Kelsey. But when his mother starts dating a loudmouth firefighter named Ray, 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.

I remember listening to an interview of Apatow once and he said words to the effect that for a comedy to work it had to work well as a drama first. The King of Staten Island is not a comedy in the way that the 40 Year Old Virgin is. It’s more drama with really hilarious moments and lines that take you by surprise with how damn hilarious they are. 

 

And it feels more autobiographical than a plain old movie. Its structure is slightly messy because Scott’s life is messy. But the slightly wobbly structure doesn’t distract, it makes it all the more interesting to watch. 

 

Because Scott is complicated and his avoidance of grief of his Dad’s death and meandering through life is confronted. And, if you’ve ever faced grief, it is messy. It does feel like you have no truth north, that you’re disorientated. The King of Staten Island captures this sense of grief beautifully in all of its raw, messy and at times funny power. 


The cast of The King of Staten Island are great. I’d be interested to see Davidson in another role to see if I wasn’t just ‘playing himself’ because he was superb here. Marisa Tomei, Bill Burr and Bel Powley are standouts in a brilliant cast that make you feel like the characters are real, lived in people. 

At times hilarious at others heartbreakingly raw and poignant, The King of Staten Island is a beautiful exploration of grief and taking control of your chaotic life.

★★★★

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