Everybody needs an editor because everyone is constantly changing…
While The King of Staten Island has some strong elements to it, notable the performance from Pete Davidson, Writer/Director Judd Apatow’s free flowing style actually doesn’t do this film any favors as it ends up being much longer then it needed to be.
Scott (Pete Davidson) has been a case of arrested development ever since his firefighter father died when he was seven. He’s now reached his mid-20s having achieved little, chasing a dream of becoming a tattoo artist that seems far out of reach. As his ambitious younger sister (Maude Apatow) heads off to college, Scott is still living with his exhausted ER nurse mother (Marisa Tomei) and spends his days smoking weed, hanging with the guys—Oscar (Ricky Velez), Igor (Moises Arias) and Richie (Lou Wilson)—and secretly hooking up with his childhood friend Kelsey (Bel Powley). But when his mother starts dating a loudmouth firefighter named Ray (Bill Burr), it sets off a chain of events that will force Scott to grapple with his grief and take his first tentative steps toward moving forward in life.
While there’s some genuine emotion and reality at the core of the King of Staten Island both Apatow and Davidson let it all go far too long as it dives into material that we’ve ultimately seen before.
There’s no denying that Judd Apatow as a storyteller has a certain formula that you just set to rinse and repeat, it usually works but with The King Of Staten Island we have certainly found the exception to the rule. Taking characters and having them navigate that state of arrested development that all his characters find themselves in can be interesting to watch when we have a fleshed out character. Pete Davidson was basically playing Pete Davidson…which to his credit he did it well but the overall narrative had such a meandering pace to it that this either needed to be trimmed to a lean and mean 95-100 minutes with a little more punch or fleshed out into a limited series on TV, this middle ground in length doesn’t do it any favors.
And yes I love the overall message of the movie that there really is no end all cure to depression and how it’s important to keep on living and figuring it all out as you go. These things do tend to wrap themselves in a neat and tidy bow and for what is essentially a studio movie it did have more of a grounded and necessarily ambiguous feel to it that made it feel like Apatow was trying to do his best Richard Linklater impression. It kind of works, but it kind of doesn’t as well.
Davidson works pretty well as the affable Scott who just can’t shake himself out of the decade’s long rut he’s been in since his dad died and he should since he co-wrote and produced this thing. It’s a solid vehicle for him and he manages to play well bouncing between his sarcastic styling’s and some genuine human drama and emotion. He plays a fucked up person trying to figure his shit out, not realizing that in many ways we’re all fucked up people trying to figure our shit out.
Bill Burr is shockingly good opposite him as Ray Bishop and Marisa Tomei as Scott’s mother all bring an interesting dynamic to the table because in many ways they’re all the same character just at different stages in the human experience. Apatow does have a knack for reminding us that we are not perfect and we never will be…but that’s also what makes life worth living.
Maude Apatow continues to earn her stripes in spite of the nepotistic casting here as Scott’s long suffering sister, while Steve Buscemi has a small yet significant role in helping many of these characters stay on some kind of emotional track.
When all is said and done, there’s something about The King of Staten Island that you have to appreciate. Even though it’s uneven, occasionally dull and momentarily pointless at times…that’s also life and sometimes you just have to ride out those moments to find your way to the other side in life which when you let it can be pretty darn special.