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Review: 'The King Of Staten Island'

In the way of full disclosure, I was never much of a Pete Davidson fan.

When I first saw him on SNL, he seemed to be a troubled young man thrust into the limelight a little too soon, struggling to find his place within an older, all-star cast.

The details of his personal life—including the well-publicized emotional crises and breakups with celebrity girlfriends-- seemed to dominate the headlines and overshadow his professional status.

For me, frankly, he just seemed like a conflicted guy who needed to work through a mountain of issues.

So when I heard that he was going to be starring in the feature film The King of Staten Island, I was a little surprised.

I was even more surprised when the movie started to generate so many positive comments and so much praise.

After seeing it myself, I must admit, it turned me around. And that’s saying a lot.

For starters, what caught my attention were the names of director Judd Apatow, and co-stars Marissa Tomei and Steve Buscemi, all of whom I admire very much.

The movie is somewhat autobiographical.

Davidson’s character is a 24-year-old man-child living in his mom’s basement.

Rather than being an aspiring comedian, he’s a guy with a dream of creating a restaurant (Ruby Tattoosdays) where you can order food and get a tattoo at the same time. Like Pete Davidson, his character, Scott, is into tattoos, in a big way.

Meantime, Scott spends his days getting high with his loser friends and having casual sex with his perky-cute girlfriend played by Bel Powley.

Bel comes off as a young Marisa Tomei, the Marisa Tomei from My Cousin Vinny. Both characters, ironically shared the same problems of boyfriend commitment.

Marisa Tomei plays Scott’s mom, the attractive widow of a fireman who lost his life in the line of duty.

As mentioned, I have been a huge Marisa Tomei fan since I first saw her in My Cousin Vinny.

My friends can verify the fact that I walked out of the theater that evening boldly predicting that she would win an Oscar for her performance.

They all loved the movie but nobody believed me.

I love being right.

Tomei is stellar in just about anything she does, and she’s terrific here. She is spot-on during every moment she’s on the screen.

Buscemi, who was a firefighter in real life before becoming and actor, turns in another of his signature Steve Buscemi performances.

And that brings us to Pete Davidson, essentially playing himself.

While that may seem like the easiest gig in the world, the tough part is to do it well and to create a character that the audience can actually empathize with and genuinely care about.

He does that. In spades.

It’s the perfect mix of a great script, solid direction and an ensemble cast that clicks.

It all comes together in what seems like an effortless, easy-going collaboration.

The movie is funny. It cashes in on Pete Davidson’s angry, unbalanced, soul-baring sarcasm that is the core of his SNL rants.

The loss of a beloved dad in the movie is paralleled by the loss of Davidson’s real dad, a fireman who lost his life during the 911 World Trade Center attack.

That kind of loss is psychologically shattering. It explains a lot.

The script gets it just right with its balance of comedy and drama. Much of the comedy is derived from Scott’s ambition to be a tattoo artist and the learning curve of perfecting your craft on friends who will carry around your failed, fumbling first attempts the rest of their lives.

No spoilers here. But it’s damned funny stuff.

Scott’s long coming-of-age journey is both funny and painful.

His mom realizes that he needs to be kicked out of his cozy basement nest if he is ever going to spread his tattooed wings and attempt to fly.

It’s an unimaginable prospect for a sheltered twenty-something on anti-depressants with a major case of arrested development. His struggle is what the movie is all about.

The King of Staten Island is a gem of a movie that works its magic, gets up to speed and then hits cruise control.

It’s a steady, enjoyable ride, and you want to be along for every minute of it.

About the only misstep in the movie is a sequence involving Scott’s firemen friends responding to the scene of a building fire. It looks like the work of an assistant director.

It isn’t horrible, but even a slight variation from a movie as beautifully produced as this one draws attention to itself.

It underscores how wonderfully and consistently the rest of the movie plays.

The King of Staten Island turned me around.

I have a better understanding of Pete Davidson and a newfound appreciation of his talent both as a writer and performer. It’s a pretty remarkable feature film debut.

The people of Staten Island might want to think about erecting a statue to their new Boy-King. Just make sure to include the tattoos.

While Pete Davidson may only be a strugglinig jester on SNL, he rules as The King of Staten Island.

Pete Davidson and Marisa Tomei make Judd Apatow’s new movie The King of Staten Island a must-see.


The King of Staten Island is on demand everywhere.

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