Friday Film Review--"The King Of Staten Island"

Jan 15, 2021

SNL regular Pete Davidson's first leading role is in a film that's close to his Staten Island roots and his life story. Linda Jager shares more in her review of "The King of Staten Island".

Pete Davidson is a complicated character, both onscreen and in real life. The 27-year old comedian/actor is known best as one of "Saturday Night Live"’s youngest cast members – he landed a spot on the show at age 20 and has been known to push the boundaries of comedy on the show and in his popular stand-up comedy specials.

Underneath the laughs, Davidson has publicly shared his personal struggles with mental health, drug use, and the tragic loss of his father, a firefighter who died in the line of duty on 9/11, when Pete was just seven years old.

In his first starring role, Davidson is the central character in "The King of Staten Island", a semi-autobiographical comedy/drama directed by Judd Apatow, who previously cast Davidson in a small part in his 2015 film "Trainwreck". Davidson co-wrote the script for "The King of Staten Island" with Apatow and Dave Sirus.

True to its title, the film is set on Staten Island, where Davidson grew up and still lives today. The story, which Davidson says is 75% about him, was an opportunity for the actor to work through some of his childhood trauma following his father's death.

Davidson's character, Scott Carlin, is a 24-year-old still living with his mother Margie (played by Marisa Tomei). Lacking direction, Scott spends most of his days smoking pot with his buddies, dreaming of opening a hybrid restaurant/tattoo shop, and occasionally hooking up with his childhood friend Kelsey (played by Bel Powely). His younger sister Claire (played by Maude Apatow) is the opposite – a bright and ambitious high school senior embarking on her freshman year of college in New York City.

Like Davidson, Scott’s father, also a firefighter, died years earlier in a fire. The sadness of his family’s loss is palpable - even several years later.

With Claire off at college, Scott and Margie settle into a new normal, despite a tense relationship. Things change one day with an angry knock on the door from the father of a 9-year-old boy that Scott offered to tattoo. Tempers flare between the father, Ray (played by Bill Burr), Scott, and Margie. Ray, also a firefighter, discovers Margie is the widow of a fellow fireman. He returns to offer an apology to Margie, and the two slowly develop a relationship. This doesn't sit well with Scott. Things go from bad to worse between him and Ray, while Scott's friendships and relationship with his mom and sister also become strained. The remainder of the film follows Scott as he tries to find his way and purpose in life.

"The King of Staten Island" is a long film – clocking in at two hours and 17 minutes. The cast's solid performances – which includes a minor role played by Steve Buscemi -  kept me engaged enough to follow the often emotional story that features an occasional nod to Davidson's signature humor.

"The King of Staten Island" is now streaming on HBO. Rated R for language, drug use, sexual content, and some violence, it's not a film to watch with the kids, but it's worth adding to your queue for a night at the movies – at home.

This is Linda Jager with the KPCW Friday Film Review.