An enjoyable, bittersweet comedy-drama about learning to let go from infant terrible Pete Davidson and king of movie comedy Judd Apatow
On paper, it looks like a 21st-century comedy dream team - Pete Davidson, the Young Turk of painfully honest confessional stand-up, has teamed up with Judd Apatow, writer and director of modern classics such as The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Bridesmaids.
Happily, it also works on screen. This is a "70% autobiographical" comedy-drama about Davidson's own upbringing in Staten Island and it marks somewhat of a departure from Apatow's usual play it for laughs portraits of middle-aged ennui and angst.
Davidson plays Scott, a 24-year-old slacker who spends his dog-eared days in his widowed mom’s basement, smoking marijuana with his mates while nursing his dreams of opening a "tattoo restaurant" with the groan-worthy title of Ruby Tatoosdays.
The live wire Davidson, a relative unknown here, apart perhaps from his whirlwind engagement to Ariana Grande, is a revelation as the stoner lost boy, who channels his grief for his late firefighter father through passive aggression and bad taste quips. He’s also recruited several of his real-life friends to play his gang of misfits, some of whom harbour criminal designs on a local pharmacy.
Watch our interview with Judd Apatow and Pete Davidson
Bill Burr is also great value as the loudmouth firefighter who dates Scott’s mom and Steve Buscemi (an ex-firefighter himself) has a small part as Papa, the father figure at the local firehouse, who sees potential in the feckless stoner.
However, this being a Judd Apatow film, it is the female cast members who are the only emotionally mature people here. Marisa Tomei turns in a uniformly great performance as Scott’s mother in a combination of maternal indulgence and then hardass tough love when her wayward boy needs to be finally dislodged from that basement to face the real world.
Watch our interview with Steve Buscemi
Judd Apatow’s daughter Maude also has a poised performance as Scott’s high-achieving younger sister Claire, who heads off to college in the city and whose concern for her brother is rejected. Bel Powley proves once again that she’s a star in the making as Scott’s friend with benefits, Kelsey. She’s a fast-talking, whipsmart and has a winning hometown pride for Staten Island, the "forgotten borough".
It’s the right parts of tender and funny. It’s also pretty scattershot and uneven but this is Pete Davidson we’re talking about here so that’s just fine.
Alan Corr @CorrAlan2
The King of Staten Island is available on digital platforms from June 12.
Watch our interview with Marisa Tomei