Pete Davidson has an Addictive Energy in Semi-Autobiographical Comedy ‘The King of Staten Island’

Scott (Pete Davidson) is shown from the belt up on a suburban stree, shot from below, with his arms outstretched. He looks triumphant. Scott is pale white, with short dark hair and circle sunglasses. His entire chest and arms are covered with questionable quality tattoos, largely of pop culture references. He has belted khaki trousers on of which you can only see the top, his boxers peek out at the top.
Universal Pictures

Judd Apatow has a knack for making comedies grounded in realism. Continuing this tradition he’s built by making such films as Knocked Up, This is 40, and Trainwreck, Apatow decides to tackle millennial trauma in The King of Staten Island. Starring co-writer Pete Davidson, the film follows the day to day life of Scott, a high school dropout who has no current direction in life and constantly deals with the struggles of change—a topic that people in our generation will no doubt relate to, despite coming from different backgrounds and upbringings.

Borrowing from Davidson’s own life experience, The King of Staten Island provides a grounded, heartwarming look at millennial struggles. Davidson leads the pack as Scott, who’s comedic timing seems to land so naturally I found myself constantly laughing out loud—not at him but along with him. He struggles with the trauma of his dad’s passing and ADHD, using drugs and sex as an outlet and generally having no direction or goals in life. Marisa Tomei and Maude Apatow provide support as his mother Margie and sister Claire respectively. They bring a very homey energy to Davidson’s dynamic that makes it all the more believable. Bill Burr brings conflict to the dynamic as Ray, Margie’s new boyfriend, in a role that breaks away from his typically comedic and over the top roles. 

Beautifully shot on 35mm with superb cinematography by Robert Elswit,The King of Staten island earns it’s spot as one of the best looking comedies of this era. The grain and texture to every shot make it feel as if we’re looking through old photographs or memories giving it almost a nostalgic feel despite being set in the 21st century.

Margie (Marisa Tomei) and Scott (Pete Davidson) are sitting in their family living room. It is a cosy environment with a mish-mash of fabrics on their sofa and armchairs. A lamp glows behind the sofa that Margie is relaxing on and Scott sits at a pink armchair , behind him is a shelving unit filled with family photos.
Universal Pictures

That’s not to say the film is without flaws. The film at times feels bloated with a run time that pushes toward two and a half hours. Even with the over extended runtime, some plot threads feel phoned in, not fleshed out, or dropped entirely. It’s a huge problem when our protagonist doesn’t realise the main conflict, or attempt to solve it until the 90 minute mark. That’s way too long for a movie, especially a comedy. Apatow seems to have a bad habit of letting his movies drag out and would really benefit from a proper editor to trim that fat as there are at least two subplot that could be cut out of the film to improve it’s pacing.

Yet, despite its flaws The King of Staten Island is wholly enjoyable. Davidson has an addictive energy and such great comedic timing that is sure to find success in more feature films, all the while telling a story that resonated in a personal way for me. It is beautifully shot, with a fantastic supporting cast that keeps it afloat.

The King of Staten Island is available on VOD now

by Reyna Cervantes

Reyna (She/They) is located in southern California! They are an aspiring screenwriter with experience in sound design and production work, their 3 favourite films are Evil Dead 2, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Frances Ha. All of their social handles are @JFCDoomblade (twitter, insta, letterboxd).

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