Release Date(s)2020 (August 25, 2020)
Studio(s)Apatow Productions/Perfect World Pictures (Universal Pictures)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A+
Pete Davidson has always given off a weird vibe along with a lost-boy quality. These he exploits to full advantage in The King of Staten Island, a loosely autobiographical film that fleshes out his quirky persona and addresses a long-felt loss that dominates and often sidetracks his thinking.
Davidson plays Scott Carlin, a 24-year-old amateur tattoo artist who lives on Staten Island with his widowed mother, Margie (Marisa Tomei). Like Davidson’s real-life father, Scott’s firefighter dad died in the line of duty.
Scott tries intermittently to figure out his life but spends most of his days in a weed-induced haze with his stoner friends, lacking direction, and plagued with self-destructive tendencies that prevent him from pursuing and fostering his artistic talent or developing a relationship with childhood friend Kelsey (Bel Powley).
Scott’s younger sister, Claire (Maude Apatow), is about to head off to college. She and Scott get on each other’s nerves but she genuinely worries about him, even though he embarrasses her when he tags along to a high school graduation celebration and later to a college party. Claire is focused, popular, and eager to move on with her life, while Scott simply drifts from one day to the next.
On the surface, Scott is a loser. His mother, a nurse, offers him a safe haven from the responsibilities of adult life. Their dynamic changes, however, when Margie becomes romantically involved with Ray Bishop (Bill Burr). A firefighter like Scott’s deceased dad, Ray is a complex man with a life of responsibility and stability, qualities that Scott has found elusive. Scott feels threatened by their relationship and becomes jealous, petulant, and disruptive.
Director Judd Apatow and Davidson collaborated on the script. They present Scott not as a middle-class anti-hero but as a troubled young adult coping with his demons on a daily basis. His dream of owning and operating a tattoo restaurant is ridiculed even by his friends. He has little grasp on becoming self-sufficient and independent, and demands that his mother remain his cushion against grown-up responsibility.
Davidson ably carries the film, which has its moments of awkward comedy but is essentially a coming-of-age tale of a late bloomer. He has several bits of funny dialogue, but rather than one-liners, they emerge from Scott’s character and perspective on life. Scott loves Staten Island, defends it against his friends’ put-downs, and has no thought of ever leaving it for greener pastures. Davidson, tall and lanky, towers over all the other cast members. He tends to slouch and look downward, suggesting shyness and difficulty to connect. When angry, he can be tough and abrasive, speaking his mind in colorful language even to his mother.
Viewers will respond to Davidson’s ability to make you care about Scott even though on many levels he is an inconsiderate jerk. That Davidson conveys Scott’s vulnerability and insecurity along with his propensity for making bad decisions attests to his dramatic ability, which is not always evident in his brief Saturday Night Live sketches.
The supporting cast is strong. Marisa Tomei is perfect as Scott’s mom, whose job it’s been to protect him since his father’s death. Her Margie works hard and provides Scott’s security cushion, perhaps overdoing her motherly concern and stunting Scott further by being his enabler. Tomei has the Staten Island accent and mannerisms of a working class woman, and shows Margie’s flirtatious, feminine side when Ray finds her attractive and wants to get to know her better. Tomei never hits a wrong acting note.
Bill Burr nicely fits the role of Ray, ready to kill Scott when we first see him, but gradually revealing Ray’s humanity and decency as the film progresses. There is no magical instant bonding between Ray and Scott, but a relationship develops, sometimes awkwardly, as the two get to know each other and see in each a side not immediately apparent. Burr is believable as a firefighter and is portrayed with flaws, not a shining knight, which makes his Ray down to earth, identifiable, and multi-faceted.
Bel Powley is a British actress who sounds more like a Staten Islander than Davidson or his pals. The accent is wonderful, the cadence flawless, and her manner humorously real. In a role that could have been played as a caricature, Powley makes Kelsey a flesh and blood young woman longing for a future beyond the island she’s lived on her entire life. As Scott’s girlfriend, her Kelsey is hurt by the casual way he treats their relationship yet tough enough to speak her mind.
The King of Staten Island is most authentic when it deals with thoughtful conversations about the dangerous attraction of the work that claimed the life of Scott’s father. It’s about both a young man facing personal demons and a wounded family finally coming to terms with how to put things back together.
Featuring 1080p resolution, the Blu-ray of The King of Staten Island is presented in the aspect widescreen ratio of 2.39:1. The picture is sharp throughout, with excellent detail, including Scott’s many tattoos, furnishings in the Carlin house, and patterns on Scott’s clothing, mostly hoodies, oversize shirts, and shorts. At a baseball game he attends with Ray, his clothes are deliberately loud and mismatched, a yellow shirt with smiling red-lipped teeth dominating. The film’s color palette tends toward dull, drab hues when we see Scott and his friends, usually encircled with marijuana smoke. Interiors are fairly muted, with the kitchen in Scott’s home much brighter. Outdoor scenes are mostly filmed under overcast skies. The living quarters of the firehouse, with multiple beds and a kitchen, are mundane and utilitarian. The shiny red fire engines glisten. Party scenes are dimly lit and feature crowds dancing. The high school graduation party is one of the few scenes shot in sunlight, with the crowd in festive attire, a picturesque view of the Verrazzano Narrows in the background. Locations include streets lined with middle-class houses, a local pizzeria, and a stretch of Staten Island beach. The firehouse interiors were based on the Brooklyn Heights firehouse (where Davidson’s dad worked) and were duplicated on a sound stage.
Soundtracks include English Dolby Atmos and English DVS 2.0 Dolby Digital. Optional subtitles include English SDH, Spanish, and French. Dialogue is clear throughout. Marisa Tomei and Bel Powley use a Brooklyn/Staten Island accent that is appropriate for their characters. Scott and his friends pepper their conversation with R-rated language. Sound mixing effectively blends ambient street noise with dialogue. In a key scene, several gunshots pierce a quiet night. A house fire features the sounds of crackling flames, a dispatcher’s voice, the roar of rushing water from a fire hose, and men gearing up to enter a burning building.
Bonus materials on the 2-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack include an audio commentary, alternate endings, deleted scenes, gag reel, on-set improvisations, several brief behind-the-scenes featurettes, and the film’s official trailer. A Digital code on a paper insert is included.
Audio Commentary – Director Judd Apatow and actor/co-writer Pete Davidson discuss the movie’s genesis, filming, and editing. The opening of the film—Scott closing his eyes while driving on the highway—is based on a real incident from Davidson’s life and establishes Scott’s deeply troubled life. Originally, this scene was positioned 20 minutes into the film, but Apatow felt it made a more dramatic opening. Davidson mentions that he spent his high school years going from basement to basement, smoking weed with his friends and complaining that there was nothing to do on Staten Island. This is reflected in early scenes with his three friends. Referring to the scene of Claire’s friend’s graduation party at a big house with a great view, Davidson comments, “It’s a very odd thing to have money and live in Staten Island.” He says that it was a cathartic working with firefighters. The scene with the firefighters at the baseball game with Davidson railing about whether firefighters should have families was improvised and is the darkest part of the film. Marisa Tomei was nervous about improvising the scene in which she confronts Ray and Scott fighting, but she turned in a flawless performance. The film shows Margie eventually getting her power back. Making the film, Davidson was able to pay tribute to his father, who was killed on 9/11, and come to terms with his own conflicted life. Apatow understood Davidson’s vision, collaborated with him on the screenplay, and guided that vision to the screen.
Deleted Scenes – 10 in all.
- Drive to Cemetery/Cemetery
- Beach Walk
- Zoots/Pepe Fight
- Grounders Challenge
- Scott at Work
- Police at Richie’s House
- Sound Machine
- Ray Picks Up Kids from Gina’s House
- Firefighters at Bar
The Kid from Staten Island – Pete Davidson and Judd Apatow discuss the film, their experiences working together, and what it meant to make a film inspired by Pete’s life. Pete’s family, friends, and cast members contribute their thoughts.
Judd Apatow’s Production Diaries – Director Judd Apatow speaks directly to the camera, giving daily on-set information and discussing particular scenes.
You’re Not My Dad: Working With Bill Burr – Judd Apatow discusses how actor Bill Burr perfectly fit the role of Ray Bishop. Bill discusses his favorite moments acting with Pete Davidson and the meaningful relationship their characters form.
Margie Know Best: Working With Marisa Tomei – Apatow discusses working with Tomei, who plays Davidson’s fictional mother Margie. Pete, his mom Amy Davidson, and other cast and crew describe their amazement at Marisa’s ability to nail the role.
Friends With Benefits: Working With Bel Powley – Bel Powley describes her friendship with Pete Davidson, getting the role of Kelsey, and what it was like to develop her character’s hot-and-cool relationship with Scott.
Sibling Rivalry: Working With Maude Apatow – Maude Apatow discusses what it was like to play Claire, a character based on Davidson’s real sister. Pete and Judd Apatow discuss the real elements of the brother/sister relationship that are reflected in the film.
Best Friends: Working With Ricky, Moises and Lou – Ricky Velez, Moises Arias, and Lou Wilson discuss their characters, the chemistry of Scott’s “best friend” group, and what it was like to work with each other on set.
Papa: Working With Steve Buscemi – Apatow, Davidson, and filmmakers reveal why former firefighter Steve Buscemi was the perfect man for the role of Papa, and discuss the integral role his character plays in the film.
Friends of Firefighters Stand-Up Benefit – This is the benefit comedy show—featuring Bill Burr, Ricky Velez, and Lynne Koplitz—that Judd Apatow and Pete Davidson hosted while filming The King of Staten Island. All proceeds went to the Friends of Firefighters organization.
Scott Davidson Tribute – Scott Davidson was a member of the FDNY and was tragically killed on September 11, 2001. Judd Apatow, Pete Davidson, and his family, plus former friends and co-workers of Scott, share stories in honor of the man they knew.
Who Is Pete Davidson? – Pete Davidson’s family, friends, and the filmmakers discuss their hopes for what will come from the release of The King of Staten Island. Pete and Judd share why it was so important to Pete to make this film.
The Firehouse – Judd Apatow and Pete Davidson discuss what it was like to shoot scenes in a real firehouse and the responsibility they felt capturing the environment authentically.
Pete’s Casting Recs – Apatow and Davidson discuss how Pete’s decision to cast a large group of his friends was beneficial to achieving the goal of the film. In addition, Pete’s friends discuss their relationships with Pete and their experiences working on the film.
Pete’s “Poppy” (Grandpa) – Judd Apatow shares his experiences directing Pete Davidson’s grandfather in his acting debut.
Alternate Endings (That Didn’t Work) – 2 in all.
- Family Breakfast
- Career Day
Line-O-Rama – Several clips show variations of actors improvising their lines.
Video Calls – 4 in all.
- Pete Gets Judd to Release the Movie
- Pete Asks Judd Where the Trailer Is
- Judd and Pete Tell Bill Burr There’s No Premiere
- Judd and Pete on “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon”
– Dennis Seuling