The King Of Staten Island (15)
Available on demand now ★★★★✩
COMEDY supremo Judd Apatow shot to fame with hits The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, sprawling coming-of-age man-child tales that blended raunchy laughs with surprisingly honest poignancy. His latest, The King Of Staten Island, is very much brand Apatow.
Our titular man-child is Scott (Pete Davidson — who also co-wrote this). A cynical 24-year-old stoner with vague dreams of opening a tattoo parlour/diner (terrible idea), he seems content, in a pathologically discontented way, to smoke weed at his mum’s (Marisa Tomei) for the rest of his life.
Meantime his little sister (Apatow’s daughter Maude) is off to college, while his best friend/wannabe girlfriend (a wonderful Bel Powley) has her eyes set on making her world a better place. Yet it’s quickly made clear that Scott’s poor attitude isn’t purely due to laziness. When he was seven his dad, a fireman, got killed on the job, and that trauma has left Scott in arrested development. Dark stuff. Even darker when you know that it’s autobiographical: Davidson’s father was a firefighter killed in 9/11.
That authenticity injects much-needed soul into the story. Personal tragedy aside, Scott is not an easy guy to sympathise with. You may soon feel as trapped as he is in his stunted life, and as frustrated as those around him that he can’t get his crap together.
Thankfully this is a movie, so an obstacle inevitably arises for Scott to overcome in order to grow up. Even better, it involves Steve Buscemi as a kind of coke-snorting Mr Miyagi.
Funny, but unafraid to be a downer, it works best as a tale of flawed men struggling to navigate a new world of #MeToo and mental health awareness whilst tackling the ghosts of their fathers’ expectations. And the uplifting pay-off is diligently worked for, even if it’s a long while coming.
Luckily, plenty of us have extra time right now. Universal made a wise move releasing this straight to on demand — it’s best enjoyed from your sofa.