I’d never really heard much about Pete Davidson’s acting ability until I saw Judd Apatow’s The King of Staten Island. Before then, I just thought he was a sometimes Saturday Night Live comic who dated some of the most famous women in the world.
But after seeing this new film, which hits theatres Australia-wide on July 16, my misconceptions about the goofy, heavily tattooed comedian were thrown out the window.
Instead, I was presented with an actor who utilises a tragic and personal backstory, who plays up to his obvious flaws; and a film which quite obviously, will be Davidson’s springboard into worldwide fame and popularity.
It was heartfelt, heartwarming and a little heart-wrenching at times.
This flick is much like its other Apatow counterparts where the lead is a struggling underdog, one who hasn’t quite matured at the same pace of others their age. If you like Seth Rogen in Knocked Up, Steve Carrell in The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Amy Schumer in Trainwreck — all roles which catapulted them to huge fame — you’re going to love this one.
While watching The King of Staten Island, I didn’t feel the urge to look at my phone once — a new way I have found of measuring movie quality. I was gripped. Compelled by a story of grief, sprinkled with intelligent humour and a gaggle of characters whose appearance on screen complimented one another at every turn. And at its heart, it’s a film essentially about love, loss, and laughter on Staten Island.
Scott (Davidson) has been in 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 Claire — played by Apatow’s eldest daughter, Maude (Euphoria) heads off to college, Scott is still living with his exhausted ER nurse mother Margie (Oscar winner Marisa Tomei) and spends his days smoking weed, hanging with the guys — Oscar (Ricky Velez, Master of None), Igor (Moises Arias, Five Feet Apart) and Richie (Lou Wilson, TV’s The Guest Book) — and secretly hooking up with his childhood friend Kelsey (Bel Powley, The Morning Show). But when his mother starts dating a loudmouth firefighter named Ray (Bill Burr, F Is for Family), 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.
The film is semi-autobiographical comedy-drama about Davidson growing up in Staten Island and focuses heavily on the loss of his real father, a firefighter who died during 9/11 when he was just seven-years-old. In some cases, it’s hard to tell when Davidson is acting an event he was profoundly affected by.
The supporting cast, which also includes Steve Buscemi as Papa, a veteran firefighter who takes Scott under his wing and Pamela Adlon (Better Things) as Ray’s ex-wife, Gina, were just as integral to the story as Davidson himself. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to fault any of the cast members, no matter how big or small their role.
For me, this film was as enjoyable as it was heart-felt. I could see what they were trying to achieve and at times, it was executed brilliantly.
It’s not a Scorcese masterpiece, but it’s not meant to be. Instead, it’s an ode to love and loss, a raw look at the grief a child feels almost two decades after the loss of a parent.
Maybe it’s meant to be a cathartic piece for Davidson or a step away from Apatow’s more outrageous comedies — whatever it’s meant to be, is in the eye of the beholder, and this beholder loved it.
Don’t miss The King of Staten Island in cinemas July 16. Tickets are just $10* at Hoyts or upgrade to Hoyts Lux for $25*. Book your tickets online here.
WATCH: The King of Staten Island Official Trailer.