Friday, June 12, 2020


Streaming this weekend:

The King of Staten IslandAlthough undeniably funny in the right dosage, the Saturday Night Live comedian Pete Davidson never struck me as a having a broad range. But playing the semi-autobiographical title character in this, his first star vehicle, he shows the ease and emotional accessibility of, well, a star.

Working from a script he co-wrote with director Judd Apatow and Dave Sirus, Davidson plays Scott, a twenty-four-year old stoner and aspiring, though not very promising, tattoo artist, living with his weary but doggedly upbeat widowed Mom (Marisa Tomei) in New York's persistently unglamorous Fifth Borough. The son of a firefighter who died in the line of duty—Davidson’s real-life dad died in the 9/11 attacks—Scott is funny, intelligent, likable, even charismatic, but also traumatized, stuck in adolescence, and quietly, almost unconsciously desperate.

Even for Scott, though, change is of course inevitable. His younger, better-adjusted sister (Maude Apatow) heads off to college, and soon his Mom has started a relationship with another firefighter (Bill Burr). Scott responds to it all with bursts of edgy anger—something like Adam Sandler without the mannered eccentricity—offset by a peculiar gentleness that suggests self-awareness and the potential for growth.

Like many of Apatow’s works, the film meanders around at a dawdling clip, exploring subplots and secondary characters, setting up gags that will pay off far down the road, if at all. Not everything works, but it’s a natural approach for a movie about an aimless hero, and we keep rooting for him.

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