ESP’s film critic Gavin Miller is keeping an eye on the best of the small screen offerings to keep you entertained…
Acclaimed director Judd Apatow – who has helmed much-loved comedy favourites such as Knocked Up, Trainwreck and the 40-Year-Old Virgin – has probably just carved out his best drama yet.
While most off his previous acknowledged works had comedy at the forefront, The King of Staten Island is more dramatic than his past pieces, and puts that ahead of the humour here – even though it still has its fair share of comedic moments always being readied in the background.
After more ‘serious’ hit-and-miss affairs like This is 40 and Funny People, Apatow teams up with Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson (who has more than a passing resemblance to Two and a Half Men star Jon Cryer) for this semi-autobiographical look at his life – and this time he gets the ‘balance’ right.
Davidson (who has coincidentally signed on for a role in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad sequel) stars as 24-year-old high school ‘drop out’ Scott Carlin – who has been in ‘arrested development’ struggling to grapple with the grief of losing his firefighter Dad when he was seven.
He spends his days bumming around smoking illegal substances, dreaming of being a tattoo artist and owning the first tattoo-inspired restaurant, while driving his Mum Margie (Oscar winner Marisa Tomei) ‘potty’ with his lack of enthusiasm to try and get his life in order – which is made worse when his little sister Claire (Maude Apatow) leaves home for college.
But when he gets into trouble for trying to ‘ink’ nine-year-old Harold, the kid’s father Ray (stand-up comic Bill Burr) storms over to the Carlin household to tear a strip off Scott – but soon ends up dating Margie.
To make matters worse Ray is also a firefighter (in a department led by Steve Buscemi’s Papa), which leads to insecurity on the part of Scott, and he conspires to try and split them up – despite striking up a bond with Ray’s two kids who he babysits on their way to school.
One thing leads to another and Margie throws Scott out and breaks up with Ray in the process with the duo unable to get along, but when Scott helps out at the fire station the two males finally bond – and they both get a new perspective on the situation.
Which in turn helps Scott battle some of those demons that have affected his life – which leads to him being non-committal to on/off girlfriend Kelsey (Bel Powley) too.
But if you persist with The King of Staten Island through a slow-burning two hour-plus runtime, what you get is a moving coming-of-age tale – that is weighty enough to have its comedy backed up by dramatic twists in equal measure.
This makes it pound-for-pound one of Apatow’s most accomplished works to date, and if you’re still marooned on your own ‘Covid-19 lockdown’ island – offers that something a little different for a night in.
On this form, Ariana Grande’s ex-fiance Pete Davidson could undoubtedly be the king of comedy for years to come – because his first major role proves to be an accomplished ‘eye-opener’ that is worthy of your attention.
ESP Rating: 4/5
Cast: Pete Davison, Marisa Tomei, Bill Burr, Bel Powley, Ricky Velez, Moises Arias, Lou Wilson, Maude Apatow, Pamela Adlon, Luke David Blumm, Alexis Rae Forlenza & Steve Buscemi
Running Time: 2 Hrs 16 Mins
Director: Judd Apatow