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Why I Love The King Of Staten Island - Film Review

Updated: Jun 22, 2020

In a world full of catfishing, photoshop and social media, it’s hard to find anything truly authentic these days. When it comes to film, the same often applies. I heard about ‘The King Of Staten Island’ through rewatching all Pete Davidson’s old SNL (Saturday Night Live) skits. My favourites being ’Diner Lobster’, ‘Airport Sushi’ and inevitably all of the famous Chad sketches. I then started watching the ever controversial yet hysterical ‘Weekend Updates’ to finally finish with his Netflix stand up. I think it’s fair to say that I began to warm to Pete’s unapologetic outlook in his comedy and his own life. The idea that he doesn’t change for the cameras and stays true to his perfectly flawed self that we all know and love him for. Not to mention his impeccable taste in sneakers, fashion and music…

The movie is directed by astounding director, comedian and actor Judd Apatow, known for ‘This Is 40’, ‘Knocked Up’ and ‘Girls’. Not forgetting ‘Trainwreck’ where he first met Pete, due to Amy Schumer giving him high praise, leading to him earning a scene in the Rom-Com. Apatow has proved he can make extraordinary comedy through the whirlpool of courageous and wacky concepts he comes up with, that make any project he works on go from great to ferociously funny. Judd and Pete have clearly merged their wicked sense of humour and creditable creative talents to come up with this recipe of wit, heartfelt and brutally honest film-making that created ‘The King Of Staten Island’.

We begin with, if you know Pete Davidson well, the obvious use of Kid Cudi as the opening track to the film. ‘Just What I Am’ from the rapper’s third album ‘Indicud’. As a music writer, the soundtrack is always the first element I look towards and needless to say, you could tell they were Pete’s picks, alongside the help of phenomenal musician and composer Michael Andrews. You see Scott (Pete Davidson) drive along the road where he finds himself almost going into a moment of feeling overwhelmed, tired or likely just high as he nearly crashes. Perhaps even foreshadowing the ‘crash’ of emotions we were about to see in the movie. This then leads us to the first scene with Scott, Igor (Moisés Arias), Kelsey (Bel Powley), Tara (Carly Aquilino), Richie (Lou Wilson) and Oscar (Ricky Velez) smoking weed and hanging out. The first thing we can grasp from Kelsey’s comical digs and the group’s overall chemistry was the choice of using Pete’s real friends being a good shout as it really matched the direction that the film was going in, with that genuine bond you can see between the characters. The fact they can kindly banter with Scott about his Dad’s death really shows the closeness he has with his friends, which is a subtle but attractive component to the film. This is also shown when rapper Machine Gun Kelly makes an appearance as a tattoo artist and if you’re unaware, is Pete’s best friend. Yet again, through using people close to Pete, it really helped nourish and brighten Pete’s personality into Scott’s character.


We’re also given our first glimpse as an audience to Kelsey and Scott’s ‘It’s Complicated’ type of relationship, where we see that although Scott loves Kelsey, he feels he’s not good enough for her, leading her to feel confused and much like every other character in the movie, perplexed by Scott’s tumultuous emotions due to his many mental health issues. This is also a common theme in TKOSI where Scott is a mirror reflection of Pete himself who is similarly open with his own mental health issues in real life. Not only do I find this admirable of Pete himself but was what also made Scott’s character so lovable. Perhaps if someone else played Scott, they wouldn’t be as well looked upon as the constant smoking of marijuana, tattooing of children (yes, that does really happen) and being a lookout for a robbery (also happens too) would definitely not go down as well without Pete’s renowned charm and magnetism which makes us all root for him in real life and in the movie…

One of the key relationships that moulds the film is between Bill Burr (Ray) and Pete (Scott) who had already met prior to the filming of TKOSI which is really evident through the chemistry between them in this movie, which is undeniable. In an interview with KFC Radio, Bill Burr says ‘ Believe it or not, I met Pete… I was doing… Jim Norton put together this tour, I swear to god this was a show, unbelievable. It was called The Anti-Social Network tour and it was Jim Norton, Dave Attell, Jim Breuer and myself.’ He then goes on to say after the game where the US football Jets team lost at home, that the next day out of his hotel lobby: ‘this woman came up to me with this tall, skinny kid and she’s just going like we thought you were so funny last night, this is my son he wants to be a comedian and he was just kinda standing there right and I never forgot him…’ Knowing Bill had already seen something in Pete from a young age, meant that their dynamic in the movie worked wonderfully well.

The pair are polar opposites but both share one crucial thing in common, Margie. This causes a turmoil of tension as they both want what's best for her; leaving their pent-up emotions to become… less pent-up. A heated argument soon erupts forcing Margie to make a difficult decision. This decision leads to an unexpected bond between the two where they find a likeness in each other’s company, they’re both damaged but still really care about the people around them, allowing them to have respect for one another, learning they’re not that different after all. For me personally, this is what really made the movie what it was. This beautiful bond fit so well as while Apatow made sure their chemistry was evident, he didn’t portray them as best friends because they weren’t. Bill Burr’s acting is immaculate in every scene. I’d never seen his work before but his performance in this film made me desperate to see other projects he’d been involved in. Scott and Ray’s relationship reminded me of similar set-ups I know in my own life, I think everyone can think of two people with the same set of circumstances. The way Apatow displays it however, is like a pop before a firework explosion; leaving you wildly restless for the outcome…

Two other main relationships that run throughout the feature is Margie and Kelsey. Starting with Kelsey (Bel Powley). After seeing her work in the ‘The Diary Of A Teenage Girl’ a few years ago, I already knew she was a talented performer who is always dedicated to playing great roles but I was so surprised by how different her new role in this movie actually was. With her New York accent she was unrecognisable and really brought a new dimension towards her styles of acting. Her relationship with Scott is so simple yet completely complicated all at the same time, in the way that their love for each other is simple but the way Scott goes about it, is everything but. I was really impressed with the connection between the pair and felt as though this light relief between some fairly heavy topics (although not played too heavy), was exactly what the audience needed and was why I loved every second this couple were on screen.


Next we have Margie (Marisa Tomei) who plays Scott’s mother. Yet again, the relationship between these two was made to be a copy of Pete and his own mum’s relationship in real life. Pete describes this movie as a ‘love letter’ to his mother which I believe is a striking resemblance to what we see on screen. Although Marisa is not Pete’s real mum, we really can feel their bond through the screen, which can only be apparent off screen too. Scott’s mum really wants him to be happy and is clearly very concerned about him in the film, wondering how he’ll cope when his sister, played by Judd’s daughter Maude, leaves home. Marisa acts this role with sharpness, boldness and thick-skinned flair as she proves the character to be a strong, confident woman doing her best with her husband no longer around. It’s heartbreaking to see her struggle at times, especially since we know it’s reflecting Pete’s real mother Amy. While Scott finds expressing emotion difficult in the movie, the scenes between both Scott and Margie are sincere, radiant and delightfully entertaining. AMAZING.

Pete Davidson’s Dad passed away in 9/11 and is something he’s very open about in his comedy. While Pete can joke about it, it’s clear he’s found life without him painful. Therefore as fans, we knew his father would be mentioned. The way Scott shows his feelings towards his Dad in the movie is nothing but an intensely heartfelt performance that gave me a newfound appreciation for Pete. He used his personal trauma to deliver what can only be described as some of the best acting I have seen in a while. Contrary to some major actors in the industry, Pete doesn’t play Scott like this huge show, he makes it as raw and real as possible to a point where you forget you’re watching a movie and as if you are Scott himself. This is due to how you feel his pain and you understand what it’s like to be young and overwhelmed with life, whether that’s through loss of a loved one or mental health issues. Anyone who doesn’t like Pete Davidson, simply doesn’t get what it’s like to be someone with more mental health issues than belongings. I really look up to Pete in the way he handles his struggles, through making them into something other people can relate to and enjoy in his sketches and in the TKOSI. Utterly magnificent.

Overall, I have nothing bad to say about the feature. I must admit, when I first saw the running time of 2 hours and 20 minutes, I wondered how they’d fill the time out without it becoming long and overcomplicated. It’s the complete opposite. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen, with a diverse blend of relationships and emotions, it was like being at a theme park. I never expected anything as well produced as this as I expected it would be a comedy from start to finish with no real seriousness coming from Pete’s end but I was considerably wrong. I hope Pete delves into more acting roles in the future as I would love to see him branch out into other fields of performing alongside comedy because The King Of Staten Island is a must see! Anyone with a heart and a sense of humour will enjoy this film…

Review written by Holly Turner. (email

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