Pete Davidson is known for his comedic talents on NBC’s Saturday Night Live, films like Set It Up and even his own Netflix comedy special, Alive From New York. Now, Davidson’s latest venture has him pairing up with director and writer Judd Apatow for a semi-autobiographical film called The King of Staten Island.
The film shows Davidson stepping away from his typical comedic roots and diving into a more serious role that focuses on grief, love and opening your mind.
The story follows Scott (Davidson), a man in his mid-20s who has hit a slump ever since his father died when he was seven. His younger sister is off to college while he spends his time smoking weed and hanging out with his friends. But after his mother starts dating a firefighter, Scott is forced to face his life and maybe even take steps to move forward.
The King of Staten Island explores a story of grief but in a highly realistic aspect. Instead of following in the footsteps of most films about grief and showing the tragedy or picking up right after the tragic incident occurred, this film shows the grief aspect almost two decades later and how it can continue to plague someone for eternity unless they start to work through it. The film has a lot of great comedic aspects, but it’s gut-wrenching to watch how realistically grief can follow someone for so much of their life.
What makes the film so great is Davidson’s emotional honesty and his great performance. Granted, the film is semi-autobiographical, as it is loosely based on Davidson losing his firefighter father in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, so he is playing himself somewhat, but the way he so realistically shows his character’s grief, confusion and frustration is absolutely heartbreaking. This performance is without a doubt Davidson’s best to date and shows he can do more than just entertain audiences with comedy.
Davidson is joined by an all-star cast. His complex relationship with his mother is portrayed with the strong force that is Marisa Tomei, and the fighting relationship with his mother’s partner, Ray Bishop, is well-done by Bill Burr. Two really strong performances come from Steve Buscemi, who actually was a former firefighter before his acting days, and the brilliant Bel Powley, who plays Davidson’s love interest. Aside from Buscemi, Apatow includes five real New York City firefighters in the film, which adds to the authenticity and emotional nature of the film.
In order to credit the cast’s performance, we must also credit Apatow’s writing. Apatow has brought several great comedies into the world, like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, This Is 40 and the television show Freaks and Geeks, but he is moving from his comfort zone with this exploration of grief. This is Apatow’s first time directing a film in over five years, and he truly nailed it. It’s a unique idea that explores so many different aspects of feeling lost, and the only complaint is it didn’t dive deep enough. However, there’s only so much you can do in the span of a 2-hour, 17-minute film.
The soundtrack of the film is also incredible — not only the fantastic score by Michael Andrews, but also the soundtrack, which features the musical stylings of Kid Cudi, Lizzo and Lil Wayne. The film and soundtrack are perfectly wrapped up with Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness,” where he says, “I’m on the pursuit of happiness, and I know everything that shine ain’t always gonna be gold. I’ll be fine once I get it. I’ll be good.” This is undoubtedly the best representation of Davidson’s character, and Davidson in real life as well.
The King of Staten Island will go down as one of Apatow’s best films and one of Davidson’s best performances. Audiences should expect an emotional rollercoaster, but an entirely relatable story of love, loss and a person just trying to figure things out.