by Kyle Arango
Pete Davidson has been such a fascinating person to see come to fame. He has made his name by acknowledging how he doesn’t look to part of a famous person, yet somehow is still able to date the likes of an Ariana Grande or Kate Beckinsale. He is different in the best way possible and Judd Apatow saw just that and decided to make a movie loosely based on his life. The King of Staten Island is now here, and I can confirm that Apatow was right. This movie is funny, emotional, and pure and does an incredible job at highlighting just what makes Pete Davidson and people like him so special.
In The King of Staten Island, we follow Scott (Pete Davidson), a 24-year-old who has been stuck in arrested development since he was seven when his firefighter father died. He sits around playing video games and smoking pot all day while still living with his mother. Now that his younger sister is off to college and mother is dating someone, Scott must decide whether to stay in the same position the rest of his life or take the next steps towards making something of himself. We can all relate to this circumstance whether it has happened to us or we know of someone who has experienced this. None of us want to let go of the past because it is comfortable, but at some point, you have to grow and move on. This film paints a beautiful portrayal of the struggle someone who deals with arrested development goes through. They don’t choose this lifestyle because they want to, they do it because they need to in order to feel some sense of normalcy. Scott is content to stay home the rest of his life and hope opportunity comes his way, but this movie doesn’t allow that.
Judd Apatow is looked at as the father of this new generation of comedy from his work in Freaks and Geeks to directing The 40-Year-Old Virgin to launching the careers of people like Steve Carell, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Amy Schumer, and Kumail Nanjiani. I believe he has done the same in The King of Staten Island with Pete Davidson. This man finds the voice Pete has had in him this whole time and helps him use it. This film has so much to love about it. The comedy his very well where there aren’t jokes that come from a set-up and punchline, but rather natural character interactions. There are wonderful lines about just how much do we overhype high school graduations or do people even care how shiny a firetruck is when their house is on fire. These moments get laughs, but the film also takes turns down the more serious route and isn’t afraid to confront serious issues or get down to the reason behind arrested development. This film works in every sense and never trips over its feet balancing its tones. This is an incredibly hard task to accomplish but this film pulls it off.
While Judd Apatow leads the way, this film does not work without Pete Davidson. From his SNL work you would never think this guy could be a solid actor but given the right material and he can excel as he does in this. He has relatability that is necessary for this role of this guy you want to get on his feet though you don’t know if that will ever be possible. If he can carve a path here for this type of role, he is going to have a successful career. A very surprising person who stood out to me was Bill Burr who has a very large role as a firefighter who ends of dating Scott’s mom. Burr is one of the best comedians today who has a very large voice, but he is very reserved here to his success. Meaning, his dramatic chops are exceptional yet, we still get a couple great Burr rants. The rest of the cast rounds out nicely with role players like Marisa Tomei and Maude Apatow contributing a lot with limited screen time and always leaving an impact once they are gone. Burr and Davidson are the duo I never knew I needed to see onscreen but am incredibly happy I did.
The King of Staten Island is the first film since COVID-19 hit that I am sad won’t be able to be seen in theaters. Yes, it works at home, but the experience of sitting with a crowd watching Scott’s life unfold is something I would’ve loved to be apart of. Regardless, this film is terrific led by Judd Apatow showing us why he is such an important voice in comedy and Pete Davidson announcing to the world he is here to stay. This one is well worth the rental and repeat viewings afterward.