The King of Staten Island (2020)

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The King of Staten Island is a new film by Judd Apatow, a well-known author and producer of Hollywood comedies. He wrote the script in collaboration with Davidson, who admitted that the film is about 75% autobiographical. In the film, he portrays Scott (the character named after Pete’s father), a 24-year-old guy suffering from similar health problems, who lost his father at an early age and spends his days aimlessly smoking marijuana and tattooing his friends.

His idea to open a restaurant where guests can get tattoos is far from being realized. When his ambitious sister Claire (Maude Apatow) leaves for college, Scott is left alone with his mother, Margie (Marisa Tomei), who works as a nurse. She meets Ray (Bill Burr), a divorced firefighter, towards whom Scott develops hostile feelings. Such a development of the situation will force Scott to come to grips with his problems and to finally take the first, uncertain steps towards progress in life.

If you know at least something about Davidson, you will understand that The King of Staten Island is a very personal film. I listed several similarities between Pete and the character he portrays, and I would add the fact that he lives in the basement of his mother’s house even though he is popular. If you’ve seen his stand-up performances, it will be obvious to you that Pete as an actor and Scott as a character are tightly intertwined, so that there is no telling where the acting really begins. We see that Scott has a problem with emotional attachment, like he’s building a wall around himself. He maintains his defenses with humor, tantrums, and detachment, giving us a reason to empathize with his pain.

I got the impression that this is a really authentic film because every scene, regardless of whether it’s a simple friendship, showing trauma or Scott’s confusion, seemed believable to me, as if I was watching a documentary about Pete’s life. When Pete’s mother said that his father died in the hotel, I really thought it was because the script was hiding information about the real reason for his death.

This material is finely combined with spontaneous humor (of which there is not as much as I expected), emphasized emotions and sincerity. This is especially true in the final third of the film, when Scott gets a chance to see his father as a real man who was a prankster, not just a hero and a photo in the corner of the living room. His relationship with Ray brings to the fore the less attractive elements of Scott’s personality, as we realize that he wants another man in his mother’s life until that other man comes along.

Apatow is a filmmaker who has gained a reputation as a quality author of Hollywood comedies, but you will surely be disappointed if you expect humor like that in the films Knocked Up or 40 Year Old Virgin. The key to a good comedy is to make a quality drama that adds humor just when it’s needed, but here it’s as if Apatow wasn’t sure whether to go completely on the comedic side or to focus a little more seriously on Scott’s mental problems.

In addition to the length of the film, it bothered me that a lot of scenes were there just to see some new joke or Scott’s reaction to make us laugh. Scott experienced a change over the course of the film, but it could have happened without scenes like robbing the pharmacy and scheming against Ray. The script, in my opinion, should have concentrated on several segments, such as Scott’s relationship with Kelsey or his attempt to become an artist. In this way, everything has become a bit diluted, the film loses its rhythm and I believe that it will not hold the attention of many people.