THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND gets 6/10 Never be royals

Directed by Judd Apatow

Starring Pete Davidson, Marisa Tomei, Maude Apatow, Bel Powley, Bill Burr


A somewhat autobiographical film for its lead actor/comedian Pete Davidson, the new comedy-drama from Judd Apatow is a messy affair, taking many tenuous tangents and loose leads as it tries to sum up this young man’s life. Perhaps it succeeds in showing the messiness of his existence, all the while never being boring, yet also never being hugely dramatic or funny.

Scott (Davidson) is an unemployed stoner in his early 20s, who seems to exist just to annoy the hell out of those around him – his sister Claire (Maude Apatow), mum Margie (Marisa Tomei), her new boyfriend Ray (Bill Burr), and really the general population of Staten Island. The film mostly lays out his troubles in an episodic format, one after the other, as he finds himself forced into growing up (at least just a little).

Director (and co-writer) Judd Apatow has mostly had flat-out comedies in his repertoire, but some of his works like Funny People seem to lean more into the drama genres. This is another example of that, given how heavy the film gets, and also by how little the comedy works. There is a consistent number of amusing lines that will get chuckles sprinkled throughout the film’s lengthy run-time, but it has no great comedic set-pieces or hilariously written lines to get any big laughs out of the audience.

If the drama is supposed to replace the comedy aspects, then it somewhat succeeds. This character study is immense, but feels like it has an unsure destination. There are aspects to Scott’s psyche that aren’t elaborated on, like how he at times claims he has mental problems, and the opening scene sets him up to be a risk-tasking, highly suicidal and damaged young man – but this troubling issue with his mental problems is not elaborated upon and simply left hanging.

All of the acting is quite great, with Davidson managing to ease into his own autobiographical role. Tomei does well as the domineering mother role who knows when to keep her son close or to push him away for his own good. The biggest acting leap amongst this ensemble is Burr, who has never been seen commanding scenes in a movie like this before, and deepens the gravitas of the Scott character more than any other supporting character.

Ultimately, the film doesn’t strive toward any surprising denouement for our Scott character – he reaches a sort of late coming of age, but it’s as formulaic as any other male coming of age film. This is an admirable attempt at getting under the skin in a closely autobiographical way to this young man who acts even younger than he is, but the talent this film has isn’t quite enough to make it reach its intended height.


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