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Scott Carlin's Overdue Coming Of Age: The King Of Staten Island

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Synopsis

Scott Carlin is a young man who tends to get in his own way. Although he has to deal with some health issues, he spends an inordinate amount of time just hanging out with others who seem to have little ambition and improbable goals. The 24-year-old Scott has a job he doesn't like and still lives at home with his mother. The beginning of The King Of Staten Island shows that Scott (Pete Davidson) thinks primarily about himself and little about the significant events others in his life face. His widowed mother Margie (Marisa Tomei) virtually forces him to put in an appearance at a party for his sister Claire (Maude Apatow), who has just graduated high school and will live on campus at college. Claire and Margie kindly suggest Scott pursue a higher education, but he aspires to eventually run a business that combines a tattoo parlor and a restaurant. His tattoo work, however, is inconsistent, and his friends don't want any more art on their bodies. They have a plan to help Scott, though, that would be even less helpful to him.

After playing some basketball, Scott offers a tattoo to a boy who initially agrees, but backs out after Scott makes his first mark. The boy's angry father, Ray Bishop (Bill Burr), pays a visit to the Carlin home. Margie answers and offers to pay for the tattoo removal. Once calm, Ray apologizes for his behavior. They soon bond because Ray is a fire fighter and Margie's late husband did the same thing. They start dating, and Ray builds a relationship with Scott. The couple prevails upon him to walk Ray's kids to school. He then meets some of Ray's fellow workers when they spend time together. However, Scott learns some unflattering things about Ray from his ex-wife, Gina (Pamela Adlon). When he confronts Ray about these things at the Carlin house, they get into a heated argument. Margie gets fed up with both of them and asks them to leave. Scott goes to the place where his friend Kelsey (Bel Powley), his one friend with real ambition, lives, but she doesn't want him to stay. He then works out a shaky reconciliation with Ray, and with the permission of station chief Papa (Steve Buscemi), lives at the firehouse, which Ray also calls home. The only condition is that Scott help with the odd jobs there.

Evaluation

The King Of Staten Island marks the first non-documentary film from director/co-writer Judd Apatow since Trainwreck in 2015. This is also the most dramatic film from Apatow since Funny People in 2009. In it, Adam Sandler stars as a comic battling a life-threatening illness while he takes a young writer and performer under his wing. Scott and Ray find themselves in a similar situation, though neither ever looked to form a bond with the other. They try and be nice for Margie's benefit, but the thing that brings them together is the things they learn about Scott's father, who died fighting a fire. No Apatow movie to date, however, hasn't been more about comedy. The King Of Staten Island is a decent coming-of-age comedy about a man who should have come of age years ago. Scott has enjoyed himself as he thinks the world revolves around him. In a scene that proves otherwise, Scott is at his restaurant job as a busboy when a patron wants him to be his waiter, and the man won't take no for an answer. The problem with the movie is that Apatow takes a lot of time to get Scott to his turning point. Apatow, though, has shown throughout his career that he is a lot like the Papa character. He has worked with young talents like Davidson and allowed them to write and star in stories they helped to create.

Davidson is both star and another writer in a tale based on Davidson himself. Scott is the same age as Davidson (at the time of filming), and does have a tattoo that honors his late fireman father (also named Scott, who died on 9/11, and not in the way related in the movie). Davidson does a good job in the lead role as circumstances force him to make the transition to adulthood. He's funny as he walks Ray's kids to and from school, but learns to take interest in the lives of others. Scott is also a bit of an angry young man, especially when he confronts Ray about his intentions with Margie. Burr is also quite good as Ray, a guy who recognizes he has too short a fuse, but that doesn't stop him from getting overly emotional. His ways give both Scott and Margie cause for concern. Tomei shines in support as Margie, a generally patient woman who shows she can be a bit feisty when the need arises, as Scott learns the hard way when Margie evicts him. Buscemi, who was a fireman before turning to acting, brings a supportive presence as Papa, who's likely seen plenty of emotional guys on the job, and sees the same sort in Scott. He also leads the way in sharing stories about Scott's dad.

Conclusion

Under normal circumstances, I probably would have gone to see The King Of Staten Island at the cinema. This movie, though, is one of many originally slated for cinematic release that instead went to the small screen. Given the initial cost of On Demand movies, which usually run about double the cost of a theatrical release, I waited to pay a lower price to simply rent the movie. The King Of Staten Island is a bit of a departure from most Apatow films, but it still has many laughs. The ending has Scott in an uncertain place, but he has, at least, seen some ways of living that are better than the dead end way he had been living.

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give The King Of Staten Island three stars. Pete Davidson's New York story.

The King Of Staten Island trailer

© 2020 Pat Mills

Comments

Pat Mills (author) from East Chicago, Indiana on September 21, 2020:

Thanks Mel. Pete Davidson has been a source of concern for the people he has worked for and with at Saturday Night Live. He seems to be more in control now. I suppose telling his tale like this has been helpful. I, like you, like the work of Judd Apatow on both the big screen and the small screen, from The Ben Stiiler Show (on Fox) until this day, I will always look forward to his next efforts.

Mel Carriere from San Diego California on September 21, 2020:

Yeah, I seem to recall I heard an interview on NPR with the comic who stars in this film, who has overcome some deep personal depression. I think I will tune into this when it comes around to regular TV, because I like the work of that 40 year old virgin director. Great review.