The King of Staten Island is another in the long line of Judd Apatow films that focuses on individuals stuck in a rut. At age 24, Scott Carlin’s (Pete Davidson) life lacks any sense of direction. While his younger sister Claire (Maude Apatow) is getting ready to head off to college, Carlin seems resolved to spending his days getting high with friends and living in his mom’s, Margie (Marisa Tomei), house for the foreseeable future.
Consumed by the unresolved grief that comes with losing his father, a fireman, at a young age, Carlin walks through life like a reckless zombie. He cannot even find it in him to take his romantic relationship with long time friend Kelsey (Bel Powley) to a more serious level. Despite having dreams of one day opening a tattoo shop-restaurant hybrid, he shows no signs of being motivated to put in the work needed to achieve his goal. However, when his mother begins dating Ray (Bill Burr), a fireman no less, and decides it is time for him to find his own place, Carlin is forced to truly confront adulthood for the first time.
The King of Staten Island has all the usual trappings of a traditional Apatow stoner comedy, however, it evolves into something more nuanced. While the film does have its silly moments, such as the fight club for tips and the misguided pharmacy heist sequence for example, the bulk of Apatow’s film is a thoughtful look at grief. It is an exploration of a young man who has never been given the space to properly process the loss of his father.
Those around him may have found the strength to move on, even Margie is finally ready to experience romantic love again, but Carlin wears his pain like a thick coat. It is more comforting to stay consumed in his own head than it is to possibly experience the pain of abandonment again. It is this honest portrayal of grief, and eventual acceptance, that allows the film to successfully delve into the steep toll that firefighters, and their families by extension, often pay.
The Blu-ray, which arrives in stores tomorrow courtesy of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, is packed with bonus features that add richer context to the film. “The Kid from Staten Island” featurette provides plenty of insight into how Pete Davidson, whose father was one of the firefighters that died during 9/11, and Apatow crafted a fictional version of Davidson’s real-life story. Along with several character specific features, there is also a “Friends of Firefighters Stand-Up Benefit” segment which shares highlights from a benefit comedy show that Davidson, Apatow, Burr and others took part in. The most touching bonus feature is the “Scott Davidson Tribute” in which family, friends and colleagues remember the life of Pete Davidson’s father.
Anchored by strong performances by the ensemble cast, and a script that is filled with genuine heart, The King of Staten Island is a surprisingly engaging film. While the film takes the overly long road to its obvious conclusion, Apatow ensures that audiences remain interested in Carlin’s emotional journey every step of the way.
Bonus Features: Alternate Endings (Which Didn’t Work!), Deleted Scenes, Gag Reel, Line-O-Rama, The Kid from Staten Island, Judd Apatow’s Production Diaries, You’re Not My Dad: Working with Bill Burr, Margie Knows Best: Working with Marisa Tomei, Friends with Benefits: Working with Bel Powley, Sibling Rivalry: Working with Maude Apatow, Best Friends: Working with Ricky, Moises, & Lou, Papa: Working with Steve Buscemi, Friends of Firefighters Stand-Up Benefit, Scott Davidson Tribute, Official Trailer, Who is Pete Davidson?, The Firehouse, Pete’s Casting Recs, Pete’s ‘Poppy’ (Grandpa), Video Calls, Feature Commentary with Director/Co-writer Judd Apatow and Actor/Co-writer Pete Davidson