#REVIEW: “THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND”
By Mr. Will Wong
What makes Judd Apatow‘s films so unique is his ability to tell us stories about everyday Americans who are battling something crippling, making their lives stagnant. With great unhurried detail and a tone that is partly quirky and heartfelt, he shows us their growth and transformation which while not usually are physical, but more spiritual and emotional. Such is the case with his latest, a collaboration with Funnyman Pete Davidson in The King of Staten Island, which was set to premiere at the ill-fated SXSW Festival in March.
The Comedy centers on Scott (Davidson), a twenty-something who lives at home with mom Margie (Marisa Tomei) and his college-bound sister Claire (Maude Apatow). Scott lost his firefighter father at age seven and has never quite grappled with his passing, spilling into his adult life and manifesting itself through anger and lack of motivation. He aspires to be a Tattoo Artist, but would rather spend his days getting high and hanging with his equally demotivated friends. Margie begins dating Roy (Bill Burr), a firefighter also, and this forces Scott to confront some of the things that remained unresolved in coping with his grief.
Based loosely on Davidson‘s life, the Film in ways echoes sentiments of Shia LaBeouf‘s therapy-in-a-movie Honey Boy. We see a troubled young Entertainer, whom we know a bit through gossip columns and blogs for their antics, but a layer is unpeeled here and we get to see some of Davidson‘s dramatic chops even if it is within a comedic frame. And we loved it. The King of Staten Island unfolds in a way where we see Scott‘s growth in a natural progression, a late-bloomer’s coming of age tale if you will. Davidson’s Scott is self-aware and certainly not stupid despite making questionable choices, but we see how his hardened cynicism of both his self and the world affect the others around him.
Tomei is perfect as a single mom who never stops loving her son as big a pain-in-the-ass that he is, yet she is human, needing love and goes for it even if her son disapproves of her choice. Apatow‘s profile is on-the-rise with several high-profile roles of late, this and Ryan Murphy‘s Hollywood and she plays the level-headed younger sister, years more mature than her big brother, yet at the end of the day still a doting little sister. Burr is great as a loudmouth father figure to Scott and despite our hesitation, we do wind up liking him at the end of this journey. Bel Powley also is fantastic transforming from English actress to a Staten Island girl helplessly in love with Scott.
We love also the unconventional music choices here and we love that unsung heroine of Soul, Alice Clark, gets a nod in the credits. We enjoyed Davidson‘s work on Saturday Night Live but The King of Staten Island made us fully get it. A highly-enjoyable watch, available on Digital and On-Demand Friday, June 12, 2020 via Universal Pictures Canada.