The King of Staten Island

Jacob Richardson | 16/07/2020

Funny and poignant, The King of Staten Island impresses.


Scott Carlin (Pete Davidson) lost his firefighter dad as a young kid, and has struggled to recover ever since. 24 years old, his sister moving off to college, and his mother (Marisa Tomei) starting to date a new firefighter, Ray (Bill Burr), Scott starts to fall even further off the rails. But when his mother kicks him and Ray out, and he has to crash at the fire station with Ray, Scott starts to turn his life around.


With The King of Staten Island, Judd Apatow delivers a roving story of arrested development. This is a movie that ambles along to its eventual crux, in no hurry to get to the narrative. Apatow is more than happy to revel in the Staten Island tropes he and Davidson so clearly enjoy, and focus on the people and places there for the first hour and a half. It’s ambling and easy to watch, although not that engrossing. 


That changes for the better once we hit the crux of the story - when Scott’s mother kicks him out. He has to crash at the fire station with his mother’s boyfriend Ray (also in the doghouse) and this throws together the elements for an actual driven plot that fully enamours you to the film. Davidson and Burr have a natural chemistry, and the weed-infused, chilled-out persona of Davidson plays perfectly off the more uptight, old guard charm of Burr. 


Davidson and Burr both deliver stellar performances, as does Tomei. Leaning heavily into some of those Staten Island tropes, and with varying degrees of success at the accent (Davidson as a Staten Island local obviously comes out on top), the trio ground a film that then fills the space around them with an assorted variety of more cookie-cutter characters. That’s fine, and they bring a level of humour and fun to the proceedings, but it is really the central trio that we care about here, and Davidson, Burr and Tomei do a fantastic job of keeping it believable, but enthralling. 


There’s plenty of other stuff to love about the film too. The Kid Cudi infused soundtrack is a lot of fun. Visually, this is grainy and gritty and without too much sheen, which makes it a little bit more ~art~. And the writing is incredibly on point, with chuckles and belly laughs flowing right the way throughout. The only issue is in the pacing and the timing. This is a long film, at over two hours, and the first hour to hour and a half are too ambling to be truly engrossing. When you remember this movie after you leave - and you will - you will remember everything that happens after the Scott and Ray get kicked out, because when the structure of the story picks up, the humour and interest do too. 


The King of Staten Island has a slow first half, but is funny, heartfelt and well acted. er delivers a vehicle as interesting as it’s true history roots deserves.