Review: ‘The King of Staten Island’ Teaches Some Hearty Lessons

Based on the real-life comedian Pete Davidson, Judd Apatow’s sixth feature film, The King of Staten Island, finds its protagonist, Scott (Pete Davidson), growing up on Staten Island while being unable to accept his father’s death in the 9/11 attacks. Now that he’s a young adult who spends his time smoking weed and dreaming of becoming a tattoo artist, he must deal with his sister (Maude Apatow) going away to college and his mother (Marisa Tomei) getting a new boyfriend (Bill Burr) as well as confronting his own inner turmoil.

Throughout the film, Pete Davidson delivers a solid performance as the black sheep of his family. For instance, when his mother starts dating someone new, Scott is the only one uncomfortable with being in that kind of situation. From his perspective, it doesn’t feel right for his mother to be together with something who isn’t his father. Despite how much time has passed Scott is still grieving and doesn’t want someone else to intrude into his home life. He is, essentially, stuck in the past

As expected, Scott’s struggle lies towards being unable to face his real-life problems. The way that Pete Davidson portrays his character causes the audience to relate to him because of how he grapples with certain situations or problems. Throughout the film, Scott doesn’t deal with his pain, but hides it inside away from other people. He doesn’t have the foggiest idea of what to do at any given moment, much less of what the right thing to do. In one scene, Scott joins his friends at a robbery in a local pharmacy store. Later on, Scott flees because he doesn’t want to get arrested, even though he believes he didn’t do anything vindictive during the burglary. In a way, this film teaches us about making the right choices and the consequences if we aren’t careful. In seeing Scott grow up and take responsibility for his actions while facing his father’s death, the audience empathizes with him and learns the same lessons.

Through the parallels of its lead protagonist and actor, The King of Staten Island digs into the life of Pete Davidson after the passing of his father. There are fewer jokes and one-liners than your typical Apatow comedy, but the film’s focus leans more towards the impact of Scott’s father on Scott, and therefore Pete Davidson’s father on Pete. Apatow’s greatest ability is dissecting the relationships and that make up most of the film’s runtime. Even though The King of Staten Island is a tale of a young man experiencing his personal demons, it works effectively as a story of a combustible family understanding how to get things back in control.