Friday, June 12

The King of Staten Island Review

The King of Staten Island
Dir: Judd Apatow
Starring: Pete Davidson, Marisa Tomei, Maude Apatow, Bel Powley, Steve Buscemi, Moises Arias, Ricky Velez, Lou Wilson, and Bill Burr
136 Minutes 
On-Demand 6/12/2020

At one point in life, we’ve all had lofty ambitions…scary, funny, crazy, impossible ambitions. The ambitions for Scott (Pete Davidson), a 24-year-old living at home with his widowed mother Margie (Marisa Tomei), is to open a tattoo parlor that doubles as a restaurant. It’s an idea that even his stoner best friends aren’t completely sold on.  

“The King of Staten Island” has a ton of ambition that sometimes reveals itself as heart but is often a confusing mess of emotions that doesn’t always find the nicest balance of tone. Still, Pete Davidson is fantastic, a great dramatic shift for the young comedian who winds up being the glue that holds this 2-hour plus film together. 

The introduction to Scott comes inside a car, music blasting through the speakers, and a look on the young adult’s face that seems anxious and scared. He closes his eyes for a moment, trying to escape whatever is tormenting him, and narrowly misses a major car crash. Scott is troubled, suffering from some form of mental illness, and is still scarred by the death of his father, a New York City fireman. Scott is lost, angry about the attention his sister Nell (Maude Apatow) is getting, bumbling into nothingness with his friends, and keeping his mother Margie from moving on with life. An angry encounter with a firefighter named Ray (Bill Burr), who takes a liking to Margie, brings changes to Scott’s life.

Pete Davidson, most recognizably known as a cast member from “Saturday Night Live”, co-wrote the film with Judd Apatow and Dave Sirus. Davidson turns an impressive dramatic role, undercut with moments of both silly and dark comedy, building a character that is wholly unlikeable but with hints of peculiar charm. And, it’s that charm, displayed when Davidson has sweet moments walking Ray’s children to school or during intimate conversations with his girlfriend Kelsey (Bel Powley) about his feelings, that brings compelling conflict to the character when things inevitably turn difficult. 

Judd Apatow does a great job of building ensemble casts. Here, the director provides many opportunities for supporting characters to shine. Bel Powley plays Scott’s girlfriend Kelsey with a brassy, yet caring attitude, Maude Apatow provides some nice touches of tough love for her brother as Claire, and Moises Arias kindly and effortlessly supports his best friend’s aspiration to be a tattoo artist by lending his body as a practice canvas. 

These characters, along with others like Steve Buscemi as the old school firehouse lead and Pamela Adlon as Ray’s ex-wife, are all given individual amusing pieces of comedy and drama that don’t always add much to the complete composition of the film. While they offer pieces of amusing insight and sometimes very funny scenarios, their characters are often inserted for just that brief moment and then taken away. It creates an unevenness to the storytelling that shifts the emotional tone of the film in many different directions. 

While this may seem purposeful, perhaps emulating the inner emotional lack of control and constant struggle Scott experiences with his mental illness on a daily basis that is brought to life through Pete Davidson’s muted, frustrated, confused performance, the film never clearer makes that character connection an emphasis in the beginning. Instead, we have a character with a wealth of trauma that needs numerous avenues of attention even a 136-minute movie doesn’t have time to explore.

Monte’s Rating
3.oo out of 5.00

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