“Scott has been a case of arrested development since his firefighter dad died. He spends his days smoking weed and dreaming of being a tattoo artist until events force him to grapple with his grief and take his first steps forward in life.”

Director: Judd Apatow
Writers: Judd Apatow, Pete Davidson, Dave Sirus
Staring: Pete Davidson, Bel Powley, Marisa Tomei, Maude Apatow, Bill Burr
Streaming: HBO Max
Release Date: August 13, 2021

The King Of Staten Island is a semi-biographical story of the movie’s star Pete Davidson. Like the character Scott Carlin, Davidson’s father passed away in the line of duty working as a firefighter. The tragedy of this childhood loss messes with Scott and infiltrates his motivation as grows up and The King Of State Island shines a light on Scott the 24-year old stoner still looking for a life spark.

Scott can’t have anything go his way; his sister whom he can banter and lay his depressing weight on is off in college and his lack of commitment ruins a possible relationship with his friend Kelsey (Bel Powley). When Ray Bishop (Bill Burr) comes to his mom’s front door yelling about how Scott tattooed his 14-year old son, the rocky foundation underneath the main character’s disintegrates.

Bishop begins dating Scott’s mom, Margie (Marisa Tomei), and the shift of focus surrounding the meandering son spins off course even more. Scott holds a grudge against Ray not only for taking his mom’s attention, but for taking the place of his father…or that is what Scott thinks he is doing. Ray is a firefighter himself, which naturally stokes the embers of Scott’s disdain.

The final act of the movie, which is the strongest portion of the story, is Scott coming to realize some of his faults and learning to grow from them. The first step towards his maturity is provided by the firehouse and the fire workers within. With a new sense of a family and a evolving friendship with Ray, Scott is able to start following a path that will lead him out of the fog he’s been trying to view life through.

The King Of Staten Island can sit on its throne of quality thanks to the acting within the movie. Pete Davidson in the lead is solid, but the strength comes in the supporting characters.

Bill Burr as Ray is wonderful because Burr is just playing himself. He is spurting out random sports facts and stories to illustrate his points of view. Ray has angry outbursts and classic old man yells at clouds moment and his mustache adds to the only grumpy man esthetic. But in all seriousness, Burr is really, really good. You can tell in certain scenes he is just throwing lines at Davidson and they are riffing off one another. There is a comfortability there with the character that makes his performance really effective.

The unsung hero of this movie is Steve Buscemi. Playing the elder fireman by the name of Papa, Buscemi is on screen for a total of maybe five minutes, but they are a beautiful five minutes. It is easy to understand why he would be a part of this movie with his connection to the FDNY, and it is obvious watching that he wants to showcase what the family lifestyle of that occupation can bring. Whenever Ray or Scott are on the edge of moment, Papa is there as a guard railing to guide them. It is a lot like Sam Elliot as Bobby in A Star Is Born (2018); every scene he was in was made better.

Is Marisa Tomei bad in anything she is in? It honestly seems like her batting average is 1.000. She is very good in The King Of Staten Island and the development of her character is heart warming to watch. Margie is navigating her daughter going away to college and her son being a giant asshole. Ray is her shining hope at happiness and attacks it rather than allowing herself to be weighed down.

Some people may not like The King Of Staten Island because it doesn’t have a traditional story or a punctuation mark ending. To those individuals, I say smarten up. The entire premise of The King Of Staten Island is that growth and moving forward is necessary, even if it’s messy. There is no dead end on the journey of self discovery (Yea that’s really cheesy).

There are some story nit-picks you can make if you’d like. In classic Judd Apatow fashion, the movie is 10-15 minutes longer than it could be. The middle portion of The King of Staten Island drags more sore than the opening and closing acts. The one scene that really isn’t necessary is when Scott gets in some criminal trouble with his buddies. It works its way into the story as a character development point for Scott, but writing around that would by my only personal suggesstion.

The King Of Staten Island is good. It is funny, but more importantly, heartwarming. It is not over the top in its reclamation project. Scott grows slowly and by making mistakes. There is not one absolute ah-ha moment. It is hard to make real life look and feel interesting, but The King Of Staten Island makes the normal accessible to everyone.

STANKO RATING: B+ (4.0/5 Stars)

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