All I know about Pete Davidson is that “he was briefly engaged to Ariana Grande for 5 months” and “featured on Saturday Night Live”.
So, in his semi-autobiographical film The King of Staten Island, which he co-wrote, and also stars in as Scott Carlin, it’s hard to know what is fact and what is fiction. (After a quick wiki read, turns out much of what is portrayed in the film is true).
Scott smokes weed with his mates in the basement of his mother’s house in Staten Island. He is having secret sex with childhood friend Kelsey (Bel Powley), but refuses to commit to a relationship with her in front of their peers. For Scott and his stoner pals, watching The Grudge is the equivalent of a solid night in. Scott’s sister Claire (Maude Apatow) is concerned he will be unable to keep his neuroses under control when she leaves for college. His mum Margie (Marissa Tomei) seems to indulge him waaaaaay beyond any kind of reasonable level. This is one of the most difficult aspects of the film to accept, that a 24 year old “man-child” could be given so much leeway, but, as is revealed very early on, Scott’s dad was a firefighter who died on duty when Scott was only 7.
Throw in Crohn’s disease and borderline personality disorder and you get a pretty clear picture of someone barely keeping it together.
Scott dreams of opening a “tattoo restaurant” and when he tries to tattoo a 9 year old boy, he inadvertently causes his mother to commence a romantic relationship with a firefighter. As Scott has never “dealt” with the death of his own firefighter father, this naturally triggers even worse behaviour that culminates in Scott getting kicked out of his mum’s home.
With Judd Apatow directing, the comedy is never far from the pathos, but I honestly struggled to swallow that Scott could really exist. Portraying mental illness in an extreme yet believable way is a similar challenge in the other big cinema release this week starring Cate Blanchett, Where’d You Go Bernadette. Maybe there’s more license with an actress like Blanchett than a relative unknown in Davidson, where you are never really sure what part of the behaviour is him, and what part is “Scott”. And interestingly (like Blanchett in her film) it’s Marissa Tomei who steals this film as Margie, who finally learns to give her son the tough love he needs to grow up. The film clocks in at 2 & ¼ hours, which, given how long it takes Scott to stop being an irritating immature jerk, is about 45 minutes too long.
3 Stars “Marissa Tomei Shines in Flabby Dramedy”