Brutally honest comedy can be hard to find, but you need not loom far with Judd Apatow’s latest, The King of Staten Island, which follows Pete Davidson in a completely open and honest film that explores what his life could have been if he had taken a different turn.
It’s a raw and completely candid look into a young man’s life and Apatow’s almost documentary style scope brings something different to this piece of comedy.
Scott (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.
When it comes to innovation in the comedy genre Judd Apatow stands above the rest. From his work on cult TV series Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared to the genius he brought to The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked-Up and Trainwreck, Apatow knows how to hit it out of the park when it comes to both the laughs and the heart of his films. In The King of Staten Island, the director takes on an intensely collaborative partnership with Davidson and the result is a film that is an almost ‘slice-of-life, what if, documentary tale’. Apatow lets Davidson take the lead here, and allows him free reign to tell this very personal story of a young man who suddenly has to grow up and quickly! He captures some real everyday humour and there are plenty of moments that will have you cracking up.
Standing front and center in this, his own autobiographical film, which he has described as being 75% based on his own life is Pete Davidson as Scott Carlin. Scott is best described as an over-developed man child and ‘Grade A’ loser, who is content with just wasting his life away, even though everyone around him is flabbergasted to see him go to waste. This performance from Davidson is raw and almost cathartic as he works through the issues of losing his father, as has Scott, and through Scott’s journey throughout the film, we see a man who is forced to grow up and accept some responsibility in his life following some hard-fought lessons. On Davidson’s behalf, this performance is incredibly brave and open and when he finally begins to grow up the audience sees him for the good guy he always has been.
Adding to the heart of The King of Staten Island are three superb performances from Bel Powley, Maude Apatow and Marisa Tomei. As Scott’s on-again/off-again girlfriend Kelsey, Powley brings a real unique shine to the role and pushes him to be better out of a real place of love. Both performers share great chemistry and this makes their scenes that much more lively. As Scott’s overachieving sister Claire, Maude Apatow gives a lot of love to her on-screen brother, along with berating him for all that he isn’t and it’s this sisterly concern that starts to eat away at him and sets a course for change. Then there’s Marisa Tomei as Scott’s mother Margie, an ER nurse and widower who has enabled her son for far too long and drives home his need to grow up. All of the women in his life have a big impact on Scott, and these three actresses give amazing performances that truly drive home the point of this movie.
The King of Staten Island is a film that will both engage your funny bone, along with your heartstrings and it carries a sincere and very open portrait of a young man’s coming of age. It’s the result of a very open collaboration between a director and his star and those seeking something different and unexpected will be happily surprised by this one.
Image: Universal Pictures NZ