TL;DR – This is a deeply messy, often dysfunctional film, however despite this, or because of this, it sucks you into its world and makes you care for every single character.
Score – 4 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Today we review a film that fits in an odd space. It is both a fictional film in many respects but also semi-autobiographical. The leading cast member Pete Davidson is quite famous in the US for Saturday Night Live, but we don’t really get that here in Australia. All of this led to me walking into that cinema not knowing what to expect, and if I had expected anything, it would not have been what we got.
So to set the scene, Scott Carlin (Pete Davidson) is a high school drop out that spends all day smoking weed with his friends and tattooing them … well not great .. Obama … He suffers from several medical problems, as well as the weight of pain that comes from his father, who died saving people from a fire when Scott was just a kid. His world starts to fall apart after his sister Claire (Maude Apatow) moves away for college and his mother Margie (Marisa Tomei) finally begins to move on with her life.
This is an odd film because it jumps from place to place, giving it an almost inconsistent feel, but it is always compelling. Part of this is from the character arc of Scott. At the start, he is just this stoner drop out with no direction in his life. However, as the film goes on, layers of his life are revealed that makes him a more rounded character than you usually see in these types of movies. What helps is that Pete Davidson is both the actor and writer for this film and he is bringing a lot of who he is to the semi-autobiographical role and that gives the character more dimensions.
It isn’t easy to place just where this film sits within the film landscape. It is an exploration of mental health and the legacy of trauma, which is some heavy stuff. It is an odd-ball romance film with one of the most oddly charming couples I have seen this year. It is a love letter to Staten Island, made from someone that knows the place well. But it is also a stoner comedy with the coarse language, sex scenes, and creative graffiti to match. However, when you boil it down, this is a film about family, and when it is in that zone, it shines.
One of the factors that helps the film is that there are these anchors that keep things grounded among all the chaos. The first of these is Scott’s mum, someone who has lived with pain all her life and has tried her best with her kids in a challenging situation. Marisa Tomei gives a tour de force performance and is the emotional core of the film. Out of all the characters in the film, it is her growth that becomes the central focus point. The other grounding factor is chief of the local firefighter company Papa (Steve Buscemi). Steve Buscemi, was a firefighter before he was an actor, and that brings immediate credibility to the role because his acting comes from a real place of understanding.
I think the one area that will make it or break it with this film for people is how they interact with the story and structure of The King of Staten Island. However, to do this, we need to hit some [SPOILERS]. This is a story that takes a long time to reveal where it is going. Indeed it is not until the third act where it coalesced together. This means that we spend most of the film flittering around Scott’s life as he slowly self-destructs most of his relationships. It can feel almost random as it moves from plotline to plotline, and to be fair not all of them land. A good example of this is a subplot about robbing a pharmacy. However, on the whole, most of this time is there to build characters, this means that the ending has more weight because you get to know who these people are and what drives them, which lets the catharsis land.
In the end, do we recommend The King of Staten Island? Yes, yes we would. I am not sure this is going to be everyone’s cup of tea. But the performances and story make this a recommend from me. If you liked The King of Staten Island, I would also recommend The Legend of Baron To’a.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The King of Staten Island
Directed by – Judd Apatow
Written by –Judd Apatow, Pete Davidson & Dave Sirus
Music by – Michael Andrews
Cinematography by – Robert Elswit
Edited by – Jay Cassidy, William Kerr & Brian Scott Olds
Production/Distribution Companies – Apatow Productions, Perfect World Pictures & Universal Pictures
Starring – Pete Davidson, Marisa Tomei, Bill Burr, Bel Powley, Maude Apatow, Steve Buscemi, Pamela Adlon, Ricky Velez, Kevin Corrigan, Domenick Lombardozzi, Mike Vecchione, Moisés Arias, Carly Aquilino, Lou Wilson, Derek Gaines, Pauline Chalamet, Colson Baker, Mario Polit, Luke David Blumm, Colton Morrow-Merrill & Robert Smigel
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14A; Germany: 12; New Zealand: na; United Kingdom: 15; United States: R