The King of Staten Island

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

The King of Staten Island
dir Judd Apatow
prd Judd Apatow, Barry Mendel
scr Judd Apatow, Pete Davidson, Dave Sirus
with Pete Davidson, Marisa Tomei, Bill Burr, Bel Powley, Maude Apatow, Pamela Adlon, Ricky Velez, Moises Arias, Lou Wilson, Steve Buscemi, Kevin Corrigan, Colson Bakerr
release US/UK 12.Jun.20
20/US Universal 2h17

tomei powley apatow

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Arias, Velez and Davidson
Warm and surprisingly serious for a Judd Apatow movie, this comedy-drama has sharply well-observed characters and some very strong moments. But it's also meandering and far too long, which waters down the impact of the story. It's based on the real-life experiences of Pete Davidson, which gives it a properly personal kick. So the pointed, knowing dialog continually catches us off guard as it reveals feelings that resonate strongly.
In suburban New York, Scott (Davidson) hangs out with his pals (Velez, Arias and Wilson) smoking pot and watching violent movies. He needs antidepressants to cope with the death of his firefighter dad, feeling like there's something seriously wrong with him. Everyone doubts his plan to open a tattoo shop that's also a restaurant, so he's running out of people willing to offer their skin for practice. Meanwhile, Scott's supportive girlfriend Kelsey (Powley) is growing tired of his disconnected approach to life. And his protective mother Margie (Tomei) is beginning to look elsewhere for affection.
The film has a superb everyday quality to it, as various interactions flow into each other, creating unexpected connections and sending sideplots spiralling in offbeat directions. For example, when a 9-year-old begs Scott to tattoo him, the boy's father Ray (Burr) takes an interest in Margie, which raises issues with Scott because Ray's a firefighter too. The film is packed with tiny conflicts like this, as Scott bounces off a range of random people.

Performances are relaxed and authentic, never trying to punch the drama while letting comedy punchlines land softly. Davidson is likeably hapless, even when he's having a spirited reaction to someone. His friendships are realistically messy, as are his connections with his family. And there's an engaging arc to his journey. Tomei is terrific as Scott's grounded, funny mother. And Burr is the other standout, as a man with his own flaws who reluctantly, almost accidentally, reaches out to help Scott.

The film's gently loping pace is somewhat aimless, as nothing much happens for well over an hour before a series of events forces Scott to do something. The micro-drama is involving, not because the film is particularly amusing but because it's recognisably real. So when it begins to turn surprisingly sweet in the final act, there's a sense that the story has earned the sentiment. It's a lovely, loose look at a slacker working out who he is, and with some severe editing it might have been a classic.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality, violence 13.Jun.20

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