What I’ve always appreciated about writer/director Judd Apatow is that he’s able to bring a layer of depth and complexity to dumb, fun comedies. Movies such as The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Trainwreck are raunchy comedies, of course, but they also have something more to say about their characters; they focus on people with cases of arrested development who struggle to mature. In many ways, Apatow’s films tap into a universal feeling we all share to some extent: an apprehension towards growing up.
Apatow’s latest film, The King of Staten Island, is no different. The movie tells the story of Scott (Pete Davidson), the 24-year-old son of a deceased firefighter who passed away when Scott was 7. Struggling with mental health issues, Scott has been unable to move forward in life. However, everything Scott knows completely overturns when his mother, Margie (Marisa Tomei), begins dating a man (Bill Burr) for the first time in 17 years.
Davidson co-writes and co-produces this movie, and it is clear that so much of his personal story is deeply embedded in the film. It feels as if we are getting a raw and intimate look into who Davidson is; his thoughts and experiences. One of the oldest screenwriting tips in the book is to “write what you know,” and there’s a reason why it is so effective. I have always felt that some of the best art comes from a place of someone simply telling their story because what are movies if not the stories of people’s lives?
While playing a version of yourself isn’t necessarily the greatest litmus test for one’s thespianism, Davidson is fantastic in the leading role; he brings with him his dark and dry sense of humor and a willingness to scathingly call out other people’s B.S. Scott is a character who is seemingly always getting in his way; he keeps telling people he is not ready to move up in the world — to get a job or get his apartment — because he’s still trying to “figure his s*** out.” The more he repeats this mantra, the more he puts off the next stage of his life.