You might know Pete Davidson a couple of ways.
He’s a regular on Saturday Night Live.
He could be the avatar of sensational relationship failure, famously dumped by Ariana Grande, among others. Pardon me, I have no idea what he’s really like and I’m just reporting the tabloid version, which would have to be false & likely tasteless.
So I was genuinely surprised by The King of Staten Island, a new film starring Davidson that’s deeper than my prologue might lead you to expect.
Davidson’s underplayed performance is surprisingly good. We’ve seen his comedy but this is real acting. I was watching him onscreen with Marisa Tomei, noticing that when she looked like an actor he looked like a real person.
He blew her off the screen, and I say that as someone who totally loves her work, always grateful to see her.
It’s directed by Judd Apatow, co-written by Davidson and apparently semi-autobiographical.
His father really was a fireman.
The last moment of the film before the credits blind-sided me. I don’t believe in spoilers so I won’t tell you what I saw except to say that I burst into tears. Yes I was impressed.
There was a bit of drama surrounding its release, as the theatrical release was cancelled, and the film was instead put out as a video-on-demand release instead. Given that we can only watch movies at home right now, that works just fine.
There are aspects of the story that touched me. Because I am a sucker for something sentimental? Or perhaps because they feel close to home.
- The protagonist lost his father when he was young,
- The boy idolized that father as a virtual saint.
- As an adult, the grown-up boy tries to discover the real father beyond the ideal
Apatow is known for wacky comedies, but steps into a darker genre with this film, often startlingly realistic in its texture, whether through the camerawork, writing or direction. Much of the time I still felt we were watching a comedy, although some might quibble with the question of genre. On a big screen I think the audience would have been laughing quite loudly in places, perhaps nudging the needle and thereby changing that perception for the naysayers watching it at home on the small screen in the dark times of pandemic.
But it’s fun, it’s uplifting. I hope I don’t spoil if for you by saying that a Judd Apatow comedy starring Pete Davidson & Steve Buscemi will make you laugh. But it feels much more adult to me than earlier Apatow. Perhaps Pete Davidson is growing up?
I like that it’s long. I didn’t want it to end. And I will watch it again tomorrow.
You could do worse.