June 8, 2020

SCREEN | Pete Davidson Crowns 'The King of Staten Island'

"I feel bad that you don't think you're great."
Pete Davidson Ricky Velez Mois├ęs Arias Lou Wilson Judd Apatow | The King of Staten Island
Universal Pictures / Apatow Productions
Comedian Pete Davidson and director Judd Apatow have teamed up for another loosely fictionalized, semi-autobiographical therapy session of a slacker comedy about adult arrested development. The King of Staten Island dramatizes elements of Davidson's real-life including the ramifications of his firefighter father's death on the job as a child and what has become his cult of personality or offbeat everyman appeal.

Much like Apatow's past filmography, the hangout film is fun, poignant, and sweet with a sheen of dirty humour that's overlong but still brimming with genuine emotions but a more working-class bent. Davidson as the underachieving Scott continues his streak of personal character performances not unlike his actual self. Apatow has a knack for attaching himself to up and coming talent, often unconventional at first sight, and molds Davidson's comedic voice into a compelling leading man.

Co-starring a fine cast of key players including Marisa Tomei, Bill Burr, Maude Apatow (Judd's daughter), Bel Powley, as Scott's doting mother, her obnoxious new boyfriend, no-nonsense sister, and towny girlfriend, the supporting characters act as straight men who try to help him grow up, work past his childhood trauma, and move on with his adult life. Tomei is fun and dynamic as ever but it's Burr who's the obvious standout with his innate personality turned into a great foil for Scott.

Pete Davidson Bel Powley Judd Apatow | The King of Staten Island

Written by Apatow, Davidson, and Dave Sirus, Staten Island balances a lackadaisical structure with Apatow's mature but regressed adult themes. Bleaker than most of Apatow's other work, there's a clear sadness to Scott through his personal demons, depression, and unspecified mental health issues but maintains a light meets dark humour to the friendship comedy.

Davidson and Apatow make for a nice balance of comedic voices and tones. Scott is easily Apatow's most regressive protagonist with serious emotional damage from his emptiness and loss. He has low self-esteem, feels he doesn't deserve love, and is afraid to try for anything for fear of losing what little he has.

In many ways, The King of Staten Island is Davidson's rumination on what his life would've been had he not stumbled into comedy and worked out his issues and raw talent into something creative. Apatow uses his usual tricks to create another film about a directionless but endearing personality who fights growing up but relents thanks to the love of others around him. It's strangely comforting despite the heavy material in how it captures Davidson's charming vulnerability.

The King of Staten Island is available to stream on various digital platforms and through video on demand starting June 12th.

More | YVArcade / AV Club / Indiewire / ScreenCrush

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