© Universal Pictures International Germany GmbH

The King of Staten Island
U.S.A. 2020

Opening 30 Jul 2020

Directed by: Judd Apatow
Writing credits: Judd Apatow, Pete Davidson, Dave Sirus
Principal actors: Pete Davidson, Bel Powley, Ricky Velez, Marisa Tomei, Maude Apatow

Scott (Pete Davidson) is one of those manic, funny guys, a typical case of arrested development with a bunch of loser friends who blow off all responsibility in a cloud of pot smoke. But he’s darker. We know this from scene one, in which he nearly kills himself and some hapless strangers when he impulsively shuts his eyes while driving on the highway. A friend (Bel Pawley) later shouts that he makes everyone around him crazy, and she should know—she thinks they have a relationship; he considers her an occasional hook-up. Not being able to commit to anything is just one of his problems. He’s a serious danger to himself and everyone around him, in one way or another.

Director Judd Apatow specializes in affable-bro protagonists coming of age. He and Davidson, along with Dave Sirus, wrote this movie together, loosely based on Davidson’s own life: he shares with his character a deceased firefighter dad, as well as mental health issues and Crohn’s disease. But Davidson emerged from Staten Island to join the cast of Saturday Night Live at age 20, which suggests some powerful ambition at work behind all that angst. His character, Scott, has nothing going for him except a passion for tattooing, and he’s not very good at it. His comeuppance arrives after he tries to tattoo a child (Luke David Blumm) he meets on the beach, who runs home screaming, resulting in the kid’s infuriated dad (Bill Burr) showing up at Scott’s house. The dad turns out to be a firefighter, of all things. He and Scott’s mom hit it off, and the holding pattern that was Scott’s life is broken.

It’s a long movie, and Scott can be exhausting, as anyone like him would be after almost two and a half hours, no matter how clever and charismatic they may be (or perhaps because of it). A couple of subplots, particularly one involving robbery and prison, could have been cut. That said, the dialog is so good and believable that it doesn’t get dull. Typical for an Apatow film, the female characters are cookie-cutter basic, yet they are given real depth by wonderful performances, particularly from Tomei and Pawley. As for Scott, after some tough love and the facing of his demons, his redemption is not total, but you get the feeling he might be okay. (Mason Jane Milam)

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