Other than director Judd Apatow and co-screenwriter Dave Sirus, I’m not sure anyone knew Pete Davidson had even a shred of acting talent. The King of Staten Island will change that.
Davidson stars as Scott Carlin, a version of himself, in a story loosely-based on his experience with depression, drug addiction, borderline personality disorder, and grief. As a 24-year old, Scott hangs in his mom’s basement, smoking weed and selling drugs with his equally underachieving friends. He’s clear to blame is anger and apathy on the death of his firefighter dad, though it happened when he was only 7 years old. He’s belligerent and dismissive to both his mother (Marisa Tomei) and Kelsey (Bel Powley), the childhood friend he’s hooking up with in secret.
Apatow is no stranger to mining complicated subjects for humor, but The King of Staten Island is dark even by his standards. There’s good reason for that. Though in the film, we are only told Scott’s dad died attempting to rescue someone trapped in a fire, the real story is that he died on September 11th, while responding to the World Trade Center attack. Knowing that about the SNL comedian puts some of his more self-destructive behavior in perspective, and certainly offers a clear explanation why Davidson’s fictionalized character Scott might harbor some rage and sadness after all this time.
Still, it makes getting into the film from the beginning a bit of a challenge. Scott is barely likable. It’s a dark personal world he experiences. The audience can almost see a black cloud hovering above the character….