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“The King Of Staten Island” Is An Absolute Gem From Judd Apatow And Pete Davidson

Judd Apatow knows talent when he sees it. For years, he has made a career out of giving cinematic showcases to comedians. Whether it was Steve Carell in The 40 Year Old Virgin, Seth Rogen in Knocked Up, or Amy Schumer in Trainwreck, he’s shined the spotlight on them, launching the talented actors and actresses to A-list careers. He’s done it as a director, as well as a producer, making his stable of talent truly enviable. Now, he returns to directing with another effort that does just that. The King of Staten Island, like Trainwreck with Schumer, has a script written by its star (co-written here), based on real life. Here, it’s Pete Davidson, and his tragic childhood loss is the basis for a stunningly terrific work. Capturing the pain and the pathos, as well as the humor, that define Davidson, this is not just one of Apatow’s top tier efforts, it’s one of the year’s best films, overall. It’s beyond a home run. This is a grand slam for all involved.

The movie is a comedy, though one mixed with dramatic elements, and even a little bit of melancholy. Ever since his firefighter father was called when he was a boy, Scott Carlin (Davidson) has been troubled. Now in his mid-twenties and thoroughly stuck in a perpetual case of arrested development, the act is starting to wear thing. His buddies Oscar (Ricky Velez), Igor (Moises Arias) and Richie (Lou Wilson, TV’s The Guest Book) love him, smoking weed with him and indulging his daydreams about a potential career as a tattoo artist, but his oldest friend Kelsey (Bel Powley), who is secretly sleeping with Scott, keeps thinking he might grow up, which could include a potential relationship. When Kelsey reaches a breaking point with him, that’s just one factor that is about to force Scott to change. Another is his younger sister Claire (Maude Apatow) is heading off to college, something the unfocused Scott could never handle. Throw in his mother Margie (Marisa Tomei) beginning a relationship with fireman Ray (Bill Burr), and Scott may well have no choice but to evolve, and that includes coming to terms with long seated grief, some mental health issues, and a fear of what’s next. It all results in a moving comedy that is a true 2020 highlight. Apatow directs and co-writes with Davidson and Dave Sirus. Supporting players include Pamela Adlon, Steve Buscemi, Kevin Corrigan, Machine Gun Kelly, Domenick Lombardozzi, Robert Smigel, and more. Michael Andrews composes the music, while the cinematography is by Robert Elswit.

In many ways, this is Judd Apatow’s best film yet. Hilarious and heartfelt, it shows the filmmaker at the top of his craft. The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Trainwreck may be funnier efforts, but this takes the emotions he toyed with in Funny People (his most underrated work), and perfectly calibrates them. The feels are they, but they’re never manipulative. It’s actually achingly real, which makes sense, considering the source. Speaking of, Pete Davidson is fantastic, both in terms of the script he penned with Apatow and Dave Sirus, as well as his performance. He goes to some dark places and lives in them, letting us see a lot of hidden pain. Maude Apatow, Bill Burr, Steve Buscemi, Bel Powley, and Marisa Tomei are top notch too, with their supporting turns getting more life and personality than you might expect. It’s a terrific cast, from top to bottom.

The King of Staten Island is emotional, incredibly funny, and has a real New York City spirit to it. When dealing with the protagonist’s loss, there’s never overt melodrama, but instead, Apatow and Davidson handle it like so many people do in real life. There’s pain, but also laughter. When it’s going for laughs, it’s always on point. Even Apatow’s notorious long running time works well here. You need the space to get to know Scott, flaws and all, in order to actually root for him. The same goes for all of the characters. Plus, without spoiling anything, the flick leaves him in a really interesting space, opting for something a lot of studio movies would never dream of. Kudos to them for that.

Awards wise, it’s impossible to tell what’s going to happen this year, but the Golden Globes and Oscar should pay attention to what Apatow and Davidson are doing here. The King of Staten Island has a sparkling script and a lasting impact that deserves to be remembered at the end of 2020. There’s going to be flashier contenders, sure, but better ones? That remains to be seen. However, this is legitimately a worthy title to keep in mind for award consideration. The movie is that good, I can assure you of that.

This weekend, anyone hungry for a great comedy, a great human story, and just high quality entertainment, are in luck. The King of Staten Island is here to save the day. Had it come out in theaters, this would have been a summer comedy hit in the making. Instead, it’s coming straight to your living rooms, so while Universal won’t have a theatrical blockbuster on their hands, they’ve still got cinematic gold to share with you all. Make it your business to see this film. You’ll be glad that you did. It’s a true gem, one that you’ll love, but also won’t soon forget.

Be sure to check out The King of Staten Island, available to rent on Premium Video on Demand this Friday!

(Photos courtesy of Universal Pictures)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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